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Arnold School of Public Health

Doctoral graduate builds expertise in leveraging tobacco control policies to combat nicotine addiction

May 7, 2020 | Erin Bluvas,

Looking ahead, Yoojin Cho saw that the demand for public health professionals would only increase over time, especially given lengthening lifespans. As a public health major at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, Korea, Cho couldn’t envision a career as a researcher; however, a visit to the United States to meet behavioral health researchers during her freshman year changed Cho’s perspective.

“It was an eye-opening experience because I believed that working as a researcher is a boring job, but it was indeed an exciting career that requires creativity,” Cho says. “I also felt that contributing to public health is meaningful and worth my time on Earth, so I soon decided to devote myself to public health research.”

After her 2012 graduation, Cho moved to the United States to earn a Master of Public Health at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston and developed an interest in the psychosocial factors that determine health-related behaviors. When she began looking into doctoral programs, she discovered the Arnold School’s Ph.D. in Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior program and professor Jim Thrasher’s research on the influence of cigarette package warning labels on smokers’ quitting behaviors.

I felt that contributing to public health is meaningful and worth my time on Earth, so I soon decided to devote myself to public health research.

-Yoojin Cho, Ph.D. in Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior 2020

“I met with Dr. Thrasher’s students, who credited him as a great mentor in both professional and personal matters, and I felt that I would be able to greatly develop my research skills under his mentorship,” Cho says. “When I visited campus, I felt welcomed and loved the old trees on campus as well.”

During her time at UofSC, Cho has worked with Thrasher to study the behavioral and regulatory aspects of tobacco control research. She is particularly interested in examining how tobacco control policies can be leveraged to influence smoking behavior and combat nicotine addiction. Her dissertation project, which was funded with a UofSC SPARC grant and a UofSC Walker Institute Seung Yeun Kim Graduate Fellowship, focused on how warning labels can be used to communicate the relative risks of cigarettes and innovative nicotine products (e.g., e-cigarettes, heated tobacco products) to Korean adults.

After her May graduation with a perfect GPA, Cho will remain at UofSC as a postdoctoral fellow to continue her research with Thrasher and add to the 11 peer-reviewed articles (six as first author, including one published in PLOS One) she has already published. Some of her recent honors include her department’s Olga I. Ogoussan Doctoral Research Award (2019) and Christopher Peter Aluah Outstanding Doctoral Student Award (2020) as well as the UofSC Office of the Vice President for Research’s Breakthrough Graduate Scholar Award (2020).


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