October 2, 2018 | Erin Bluvas, firstname.lastname@example.org
When Arnold School alumna Fran Butterfoss gifted $25,000 to the health promotion, education, and behavior (HPEB) department to establish the Butterfoss Community Research Endowment in 2016, Venice Haynes was just the type of doctoral student she was aiming to support. Thirty years after Butterfoss herself was a Ph.D. student in the same program, Haynes has the same community focus as her benefactor.
Originally from Atlanta, Haynes became interested in cancer disparities after graduating with a master’s of science in public health from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. It was during her master’s program that cancer became more than a course topic.
Haynes helped take care of her grandmother, who was dying from colon cancer, while finishing her degree. After graduation, she took a position back in her hometown as a researcher with Morehouse School of Medicine, where she learned about the scores of women—young and old—being diagnosed with cervical cancer.
“As I understood more about cervical cancer and its connection with HPV, I noticed the need for education and communication around the topic,” Haynes says of deciding it was time to pursue a doctoral degree. “I also wanted to incorporate health communication into my work and find creative ways to educate women and men about a cancer that is preventable.”
Since arriving at the Arnold School in 2015, Haynes has worked with the Cancer Prevention and Control Program as a graduate research assistant. She also connected with HPV prevention and cancer disparities expert Heather Brandt.
“I loved the nurturing environment and the investment and attention my advisors provided,” she says of choosing USC. “When I came to visit the campus, I felt more welcomed than at any other school.”
Together, Brandt and Haynes worked with HPEB professor Edward Frongillo and a team of global health investigators who shared an interest in addressing chronic disease and won one of six ASPIRE II grants from USC’s Office of the Vice President for Research aimed at positioning USC to do global research on chronic disease prevention and management. Their project aimed to study social and physical environment determinants of cervical cancer prevention and control in Cusco, Peru. Haynes supplemented the project with her own $10,000 GMaP award from the National Cancer Institute, and this past summer, she spent two months in Peru collecting data.
“Dr. Brandt and I have a lot of research experiences in common, including community-based participatory research, cervical cancer, faith-based work, and evidence-based research and programming,” Haynes says. “It was a natural fit from the beginning, and she has expanded my knowledge in each of these areas plus many more—tremendously! I am always inspired.”
She also found mentors in HPEB professor and chair Daniela Friedman, whom she calls “a well-rounded powerhouse when it comes to getting things done and is personable and gracious while doing it” and associate professor and global health expert David Simmons. “Dr. Simmons consistently challenges my thinking in a unique way, and I think I am a better researcher for it,” Haynes says. “The perspectives he provides always leave me refreshed, challenged, and encouraged to continue on the path that I have charted since I started at USC.”
Haynes was also the recipient of a National Institutes of Health Diversity Supplement, a program through which she recently completed a project examining the social and physical environments of African Americans who participated in a year-long diet and physical activity intervention. “I loved this project because it allowed me to interface with the faith-based community across different parts of South Carolina and understand the thought processes when it comes to lifestyle changes and how they view their surroundings when it comes to adopting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle,” she says.
After completing her degree, Haynes would like to work at a research or consulting firm focusing on health disparities of underserved women and communities. Long term, she’d like to hold a leadership position in programming that uses interdisciplinary approaches and partnerships to address cancer disparities both locally and globally.
“I want to be in a position where I can always connect with people on the ground and understand what happens in their communities that impacts their health, particularly when it comes to cancer,” she says.
Haynes’ scholarship from Butterfoss will help her achieve these goals. The award has linked two individuals who incorporate a community focus into all of their public health work.
Butterfoss is the founder and president of Coalitions Work, a consulting group that empowers public health and community health groups to innovate and build partnerships in order to make a bigger impact. Haynes considers community-based work to be the common thread in every research experience she has engaged in during her decade in the public health field and does not believe she is able to view public health education and promotion without the community at the center of everything she does.
“I remember Dr. Butterfoss sharing this Chinese Proverb at a talk once: ‘Go in search of people. Begin with what they know. Build on what they have’,” Haynes reflects. “I think this resonated with me because this is how I was trained to approach any public health issue particularly with health disparities.”
“Venice Haynes embodies the kind of student I had hoped to support when I funded this endowment,” Butterfoss says. “She possesses all the attributes that a public health researcher and practitioner needs to succeed—vision, passion, a strong work ethic and commitment to the community she serves. I am truly honored to have helped support her educational pursuits in this way.”
Haynes plans to use the scholarship to assist with the transcription and community liaison work she performed during her time in Peru. This data provides an essential component of her dissertation project, which aims to identify the sociocultural factors that influence cervical cancer prevention and control behaviors in one of the hardest hit areas in the world.
“The relationships that I have built, the knowledge gained, and the opportunities I have had have stretched me beyond what I thought I had the capacity to do, and I am a better person for it,” Haynes says of her time at the Arnold School. “My goal in life now is to leave a lasting impact on all of those I meet, and I believe that goal has been influenced by people like Dr. Butterfoss, my mentors and colleagues throughout this journey.”