Laurenia Mangum (BCHS/SocWk ‘22) has spent most of the past decade serving and learning in communities around the world.
The MPH/PhD candidate and Coverdell Fellow studied abroad three times from 2009 to 2011—in Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, and Ghana—participating in volunteer service projects that focused on providing services to women and children in low-resource communities.
“Each trip enhanced my personal/professional development; each opportunity provided me with the chance to further explore my interests and passions,” she says.
Hoping to apply what she had learned in and out of the classroom to an international setting and after earning a Master of Social Work in 2012, Mangum entered the Peace Corps. She was assigned to the Philippines, where she worked within the children, youth, and family sector, primarily in youth development programs but also maternal child health, HIV/AIDS, and healthy housing.
Among the highlights of her experience was participating in the design and implementation of an eight-week maternal-child health project to benefit adolescent and young adult mothers who were parenting within the residential shelter, a temporary housing facility for victims of gender-based crimes. The USAID grant-funded project aimed to enhance the practical experience of mothers in such areas as bonding and attachment, healthy living, family planning, anger management, goal setting, and child development. Although Mangum says she experienced tremendous fulfillment in her successes, she also endured many obstacles during her time in the Philippines.
“I witnessed severe natural disasters such as earthquakes, typhoons, and flooding; power outages were the norm, and the presence of rebel militants meant being sequestered,” she says. “Despite those circumstances and many other challenges, I continued to persevere and worked tirelessly to provide avenues for resources and interventions to improve health outcomes for Filipino women and children.”
Mangum carried this same perseverance into her post-Peace Corps doctoral program search. She chose the MPH/PhD Program in Behavioral and Community Health Sciences (BCHS) and Maternal and Child Health Leadership Training in Public Health Social Work Program at Pitt Public Health, not only because of the school’s support of the mission and work of the Peace Corps, but also because of its diverse urban setting, access to a variety of health agencies, and strong faculty.
“Pitt Public Health faculty members are experts in their respective fields, which undoubtedly speaks to the school’s top ranking among public health schools in the country,” she says. “The BCHS program compliments my social work background and serves as a great transition from the Peace Corps. It meets my needs without compartmentalizing the studies into one particular focus such as maternal health, nutrition, etc., but rather provides the opportunity for the student to customize his or her own studies.”
After finishing the MPH/PhD program, Mangum plans to complete a postdoctoral fellowship and study maternal well-being as an indicator for child maltreatment as well as the use of multilevel support systems among HIV-positive African American women who lack maternal social support. Her career goal is to conduct research at a federal agency such as the National Institutes of Health, or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and continue working in low-income minority communities where child maltreatment and maternal-child health issues are prevalent.
“I am confident that Pitt Public Health will provide rich opportunities for mentorship and scholarship so that I can achieve my career goals as well as research goals.”