MPH grad Johanzynn Gatewood uses writing talents to keep the public safe

By Julie Walter

Johanzynn GatewoodAs Johanzynn Gatewood, an ORISE Health Communication Fellow in the Travelers’ Health Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approached the gate of her new workplace last October, she paused for a second to take it all in. She was in awe of the large campus full of experts and the wealth of experiences and knowledge. It was her first day at the public health hub, a place she always dreamed of ending up.

“It made me feel like I was part of a larger picture in public health,” said Gatewood, a 2017 graduate of the college’s Master of Public Health program with a concentration in social and behavioral sciences. “It was a very humbling feeling.”

Gatewood first became interested in public health communication because of her mentor, Mark Hart, Ed.D., a clinical assistant professor in the department of epidemiology in the College of Public Health and Health Professions and the College of Medicine, and PHHP’s director of online learning. He served as her undergraduate preceptor during her internship at the Rural South Public Health Training Center and solidified her career path in public health communications. Hart was later Gatewood’s professor for a health communications class in her master’s program where his work and encouragement inspired Gatewood to pursue a fellowship at the CDC, the epicenter of public health information dissemination.

As a member of the Health Communication and Promotion team in the Travelers’ Health Branch at the CDC, Gatewood has contributed to major efforts to raise awareness of infectious diseases and outbreaks worldwide. Most recently, she worked on a campaign around the yellow fever outbreak in Brazil, the Ebola outbreak in the Dominican Republic of the Congo, and a sustained campaign on the importance of Zika prevention. The Travelers’ Health Branch strives to keep American residents living abroad or traveling overseas healthy and minimize the importation of disease into the U.S. Gatewood contributes to this crucial mission by writing travel notices to inform travelers and clinicians about international outbreaks, assisting in emergency response campaigns and developing website resources.

“I am most passionate about helping others make an informed decision; you are trying to synthesize, for the general audience, different public health topics so they can make more informed decisions,” she said.

Before joining the CDC, Gatewood was an intern at the Health and Medical News unit of CNN where she wrote articles on public health and wellness for the general public. The internship allowed her to write digital stories, collaborate with journalists and her favorite part: discover how far her information reached. She also had the opportunity to do research for medical correspondents Sanjay Gupta, M.D., and Elizabeth Cohen, M.P.H.

Gatewood loves her unique career path in public health communications, which merges her interests in public health and writing. She hopes to pursue a career at the Centers for Disease Control and continue to help keep the public informed.

“Public health is such a large and diverse field, so as an instructor and advisor it is exciting when you see a student make a real connection with a content area or skillset,” Hart said. “When Johanzynn starting working with health communication techniques and platforms on our grants and within our class, the connection and proficiency were immediately evident. To see those origins and now having seen her stories on and press releases for the CDC, well, it is incredibly gratifying and we are all very proud of her success!”