New instructor impacts health communications

By KIRBY MCMAHON

Mount Mary College welcomes revered professor Jennifer Peterson to the communications department. Peterson will be instructing two entirely new health communication classes this spring.

Colleagues believe Peterson is a valuable asset to the communications department because she is a well-respected scholar due to her research in health communications.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website, health communication aims “to promote health changes in individuals and communities, using strategies and tactics based on science and consumer research.”

Peterson obtained her Bachelor of Arts from Purdue University and her master’s and doctorate from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. Before coming to Mount Mary, Peterson taught for 10 years at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Peterson is drawn to health communications because it allows her to work one-on-one with people.

“Health communications offered me the opportunity to learn about health, focus on communication phenomenon and to help people facing health issues,” Peterson said. “It also offers me the opportunity to work with a wide range of people from other disciplines, which I believe improves my work and inspires me to examine issues from multiple viewpoints.”

Marmy Clason, communications department chair, is excited about what Peterson brings to Mount Mary.

“She is well-known in the community and has many contacts with Froedtert Hospital and The Medical College of Wisconsin,” Clason said.

A three-credit health communications course will be offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays. COM 365 Health Communication will provide a general overview of different types of health communications, including patient and provider relationships; media coverage of health; and health-related campaign planning. This course will also address specific topics related to health communication, such as entertainment education, e-health and multicultural audiences.

“I am looking forward to the Health Communication course because it is an opportunity to introduce health communication to the students,” Peterson said. “And [the class] offers me an opportunity to teach a wide variety of topics.”

An honor’s course will delve deeper into health communications by exploring the issues and challenges facing individuals and agencies surrounding HIV and AIDS in the United States, as well as other countries. This four-credit course, Communications in the World of AIDS, will meet during the spring semester on Mondays and Wednesdays.

According to Clason, this course will be very interesting since Peterson is extremely knowledgeable and passionate about this topic.

“That is Jen’s specialty,” Clason said. “She has completed cutting edge research related to communications in the world of AIDS. This course will be great for students who want a specific focus and want to examine different cultural aspects of the topic.”

Peterson explained that either class would be valuable to all types of communication majors and minors.

“[The classes] offer a different perspective than the more general theory courses,” Peterson said. “I think that they also offer an opportunity for students to learn about how we apply theory to specific contexts and how we can use communication theory to benefit people’s experience as well as their physical health.”

Clason added that the health communications field is booming and provides many viable job opportunities.

“The field of health communications is vibrant and growing. Public relation and interpersonal communications related to health care have exploded over the past decade,” Clason said. “There is a great need for people who can communicate and distill messages related to health to the public.”

Clason believes anyone planning to enter the health care professional community would benefit from taking either class, even if they are not majoring in communications. Clason recommended the classes to any nursing, occupational therapy, radiology, dietetics, psychology or behavioral science majors.

Peterson agreed, adding that it is essential for healthcare providers to be able to communicate with other professionals as well as with the public.

“Communication processes have a huge impact on the outcomes of health interventions and the more you know about that, the greater the chance you can have a successful interaction,” Peterson said. “Knowledge of communication theories can also help people in health care situations determine what might be going wrong, as well as suggest potential solutions to make them go better.”

Both courses have limited openings available for the spring semester. To register, visit the My Mount Mary webpage.  www.mtmary.edu

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