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Arnold School of Public Health

Master of public health alumna wins national award for wellness efforts

November 12, 2019 | Erin Bluvas,

Suzanne (Young) Hunt, a 2014 graduate of the Master of Public Health (MPH) in Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior (HPEB) program, has been named the 2019 Emerging Wellness Professional by the National Wellness Institute. Hunt was recognized with the award, which honors the work and impact of newcomers to the wellness industry, at the 44th Annual National Wellness Conference held in Florida in October.

Originally from a small North Carolina town, Hunt earned dual bachelor degrees in health and wellness promotion and elementary education from the University of North Carolina, Asheville. When looking at graduate schools, she had a hard time choosing until she began making campus visits – meeting with professors to learn about research and mentorship opportunities.

“When I visited UofSC, it immediately felt like home,” says Hunt, who chose the MPH in HPEB program because it allowed her to blend her undergraduate degrees together while expanding her knowledge and skills. “I met with a few professors and they were kind, took plenty of time to talk to me, and even showed me around campus! I was so impressed with this, along with the research topics that were being covered, I felt like it was a perfect fit.”

The mentorship experience that she sought when choosing the Arnold School was fulfilled when Hunt connected with HPEB faculty Heather Brandt and Lee Pearson as well as clinical associate professor of public health education Kara Montgomery. “All of these people supported me and acted in roles beyond just simply being my advisor or professor,” Hunts says. “Each of them helped me explore different areas within the large field of public health, and because of this, I graduated from the program knowing what I wanted, and what my strengths were in order to begin my professional career. For that, I will always thank them, and continue to look up to them.”

In the five years since her graduation, Hunt has held a variety of roles contributing to public health. These positions have included coordinator of wellness outreach and assistant director for wellbeing and health promotion at Wake Forest University, adjunct assistant professor at North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine (clinical sciences) and University of North Carolina, Wilmington (public health), lead external reviewer for community health promotion at Southern Methodist University and associate editor for Education in Health Professions Journal. Hunt also serves as a wellness consultant for academic institutions such as Wake Forest, UNC Wilmington and Texas Woman’s University.

“I utilize my MPH every single day as a consultant for wellbeing in higher education, as well as when I am teaching undergraduate public health majors,” Hunt says. “My MPH gave me the knowledge and skills around developing successful organizational infrastructures to improve wellbeing and promote healthy behaviors.”

The breadth and depth of Hunt’s array of experiences is what led her to be selected for the Emerging Wellness Professional award. In particular, the award recognizes Hunt’s leadership contributions through her work in the areas of consulting, policy change, teaching, publishing research, health coaching and implementing large-scale initiatives to change and improve cultures of wellbeing.

As the recipient of this award, Hunt will join the Institute’s Emerging Wellness Task Force, where she will serve as chair. Her membership will include receiving mentorship from the previous year’s winner and offering it to next year’s recipient. Her contributions to the task force will also involve supporting leadership development and providing insight into effective programming and strategies to engage emerging professionals in wellness and health care.

“Follow your passion and your curiosity,” Hunt advises current and future students. “Ultimately, that’s what led me to pursue my MPH in HPEB. My work is my ‘why,’ and I knew I wanted to keep learning to grow my capabilities and skills. Changing environment, and improving peoples’ wellbeing is a powerful, challenging and extremely rewarding job.”

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