As the health care industry continues to grow, effective communication between doctors and patients and within health care organizations is necessary for achieving quality patient care. According to Dr. Heather Carmack, professor of communication, the field of health communication can help create strong health campaigns and facilitate better communication within the industry.
“Health communication is something every person can connect with because health is a part of everyday life,” said Carmack.
Carmack, who has interests in both health and organizational communication, began teaching at Missouri State during the fall of 2008. She enjoys the variety of students at Missouri State, explaining that differences in the hometown and ages of her students equal more perspectives during class discussions.
Missouri State’s department of communication offers one of the only health communication programs in the state. Classes explore organizational aspects of health settings, communication challenges, including issues of culture, within health treatment and the creation of effective health campaigns.
“Students who major in health communication can do a variety of jobs in the health care industry,” said Carmack. “The health communication degree can be paired with a variety of other majors and minors, so students are able to tailor an educational experience based on what they want to do. Equally important, a health communication degree prepares students to be critical consumers of all of the different types of health issues that are communicated to the public.”
In addition to teaching in the classroom, Carmack uses her knowledge to assist community organizations and initiatives.
“As a scholar and researcher, I don’t always get to connect my research interests with the community, so I will try to get involved if there is an opportunity,” said Carmack. “It allows me to take what I have learned and apply it. It is also beneficial for students to see that what we talk about in classes can be used outside the classroom.”
Currently, Carmack is partnering with the One Air Alliance to use her knowledge of health communication and research design to collect information for campaign development. As an advocate of clean indoor air policies, she is helping One Air Alliance survey junior high students in the Springfield Public School system about their perceptions of secondhand smoke. Assisting her with this project is a graduate student of communication, who is also associated with the One Air Alliance.
“When students participate in research projects, they learn the ins and outs of research and get a chance to get their hands dirty collecting data,” said Carmack.