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Arnold School of Public Health

I Am Public Health: Jennifer Mandelbaum

December 1, 2022 | Erin Bluvas,

Ph.D. in Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior (HPEB) candidate Jennifer Mandelbaum graduates this month, and she’s definitely leaving a mark on the university and the state. The New Hampshire native arrived at USC in 2016 and has lent her talents and energy to advancing public health as a student and researcher as well as off campus through her work at the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SC DHEC).

Next up for the rising star? Mandelbaum just joined Optum as a healthcare economics consultant, and she couldn’t be more excited.

“I’ll be supporting Optum Behavioral Health Solutions by conducting analyses and identifying trends using behavioral, medical and pharmacy claims data,” she says. “The common thread in my career thus far has been using data to tell stories that can improve patient care and public health, and I am thrilled to be able to do that at an innovative company like Optum.”

Mandelbaum can trace her storytelling roots back to the dinner table, where she and her family talked about health every night. Her parents worked in the health care field, and both her dad (who passed away during her doctoral program) and brother managed chronic health conditions.

Undergraduate studies at nearby Brandeis University introduced Mandelbaum to public health and its population focus, and she was hooked. After completing a Master of Public Health at Yale University, she enrolled at USC  – drawn to the health disparities, nutrition and global health research happening at the Arnold School.

The common thread in my career thus far has been using data to tell stories that can improve patient care and public health.

-Jennifer Mandelbaum, Ph.D. in HPEB, '22

The Presidential Fellow adopted an interdisciplinary focus that she would maintain and refine over the next six years, building on it through graduate teaching and research assistantships and her work as a Graduate Civic Scholar (USC Graduate School) and Junior Scholar (South Carolina SmartState Center for Healthcare Quality). Mandelbaum also employed this approach as a program evaluator for SC DHEC on two CDC grants addressing racial and socioeconomic disparities in diabetes and heart disease and, of course, in her own research.

Mandelbaum examines the core social factors driving population health inequality, particularly chronic disease prevention (e.g., childhood obesity, diabetes and heart disease management) in medically underserved communities. Her dissertation, which she defended in October and presented at the annual American Public Health Association (APHA) meeting in November, looked at U.S. adolescents’ use of nutrition labels.

“I can’t express how instrumental my advisor, Dr. Rachel Davis, has been in guiding me through the HPEB doctoral program and dissertation process – always providing me with the unwavering support, encouragement and understanding I needed,” Mandelbaum says. “She’s also helped me to think about scientific writing as storytelling, which has informed how I approach my work at SC DHEC, which involves disseminating data and findings to key partners through one-pagers, white papers, conference presentations and peer-reviewed manuscripts.”

Sayward Harrison, formerly an HPEB faculty member who now holds a psychology appointment, has also served as an important mentor. “It’s truly been a joy to collaborate with Dr. Harrison on research, learn new analytic skills and make important contributions to the field,” she says.

Dedicated to service, Mandelbaum led USC’s chapter of the Institute of Healthcare Improvement as co-president, the Graduate Student Association as president, and the Advisory Committee on Professional Development as co-chair. She was recently elected to serve as a governing councilor for APHA’s Public Health Education and Health Promotion section and appointed to the APHA Education Board.

Her academic and service efforts are reflected in her 20+ publications (with several more in preparation) and have been recognized with multiple poster and abstract awards. Mandelbaum is also the recipient of the Delta Omega Fellowship, Rhude M. Patterson Graduate Trustee Fellowship, Dean’s Award for Excellence in Leadership (USC Graduate School), Breakthrough Graduate Scholar Award (USC Office for the Vice President of Research), Emily Thompson Award in Women’s and Gender Studies (College of Arts and Sciences), Olga I. Ogoussan Doctoral Research Award (HPEB), Doctoral Achievement Award (USC Graduate Student Association), Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award (USC Graduate School), Dr. Rick Foster Leadership Award (Alliance for a Healthier South Carolina), Rising Star Award (National Association of Chronic Disease Directors), Malcolm U. Dantzler Scholarship (South Carolina Public Health Association), and Public Health Scholarship (South Carolina Public Health Association).


Jennifer Mandelbaum wins Dr. Rick Foster Leadership Award from Alliance for a Healthier South Carolina

Three Arnold School doctoral students win 2021 Breakthrough Graduate Scholar Awards

HPEB Ph.D. candidate Jennifer Mandelbaum receives Dean’s Award for Excellence in Leadership

Leading Advocacy for Graduate Students

HPEB doctoral student Jennifer Mandelbaum wins S.C. IMPH Outstanding Student Abstract Award

The Graduate School announces 2017-2018 Presidential Fellows, including 13 from the Arnold School

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