Eight years ago, Bridgette Do saw a flyer recruiting students to the USC REACH Lab.
The then undergraduate student, decided to get involved and applied to the research position investigating physical activity and eating behaviors. This experience would propel her into the world of public health, to embark on a Trojan journey that commemorates a major milestone this May. Do receives her Doctor of Philosophy in Health Behavior Research, graduating from USC as a Triple Trojan!
In the lab, she interacted with its Director and Chair of the Health Behavior Research Division, Genevieve Dunton, PhD, MPH. Do shares that she enjoyed the research so much that she decided to continue working there beyond the required semester. “It inspired me to pursue a Master of Public Health degree at USC.” She began her graduate chapter, as a student in the progressive degree program. Similarly, her involvement there motivated her to enroll in the PhD Health Behavior Research program.
“I applied to other schools, but realized I wanted to stay at USC because I knew that I could grow professionally and academically here the most—and continue to build on existing relationships and opportunities. This is how I ended up here for 3 degrees,” she acknowledges.
It was the ‘prevention’ piece that sparked her interest in public health. “I really liked the idea that we could influence health outcomes and well-being, before diagnosis or the beginning of a health condition,” she maintains. Today, Do’s research focuses on understanding psychological and social factors related to health behaviors like physical activity. For her dissertation, she explored how people’s moods are associated with their physical activity. Through the use of smart devices, she was able to collect data in real-time to hopefully inform future interventions that are reflective of people’s health goals.
“Doing research outside the traditional lab setting was really rewarding. It presented us information on what was going on in people’s lives,” she explains. “We received great feedback from our participants, who enjoyed the study because we were able to collect data without being too invasive—and also because it made them more aware of what they were doing and how they were feeling” she reveals.
Do immersed herself in various activities taking on different roles outside the classroom. She attended at least two conferences every year, including the American Public Health Association (APHA) Meeting and the Society of Behavioral Medicine conference. Here, she presented her research, and made the most of these gatherings by networking and taking on leadership roles. What started out as a student volunteer position in the APHA Physical Activity Section, led her to become the current Chair of Program Planning. Through collaborative efforts she published a paper on children’s physical activity during the COVID-19 pandemic with her colleagues from other universities.
“Conferences are great for connections, projects and future professional development as well,” she advises.
Throughout her time here, her main mentor has been Dr. Dunton. “She has been my advisor, a mentor, the head of my dissertation committee, and my number one academic and professional supporter. I have been working with her for 8 years, and so it’s great to see how our academic and mentor-mentee relationship has grown,” she affirms.
Do has also speaks highly of the rest of her dissertation committee comprised of Drs. Tyler Mason, Britni Belcher, Kimberly Miller, and Donald Hedeker (external member, University of Chicago). “I have worked with them since the first year of my PhD program, collaborating on research projects and publications. They lent their expertise were really helpful and positive, and guided me support throughout my dissertation.”
Do is currently on the job market, starting out her next chapter. She hopes to work at a digital health or healthcare company, using her science background and research experience to help businesses provide products or services that support healthier lifestyles and goals. As a proven leader and proactive researcher, it’s only a matter of time before Do embarks on her next initiative to contribute and shape preventive efforts to support overall health and well-being.