It was the appeal of a smaller school in a bigger city that drew Omaha, Nebraska native Naomi Taylor (BS ’11) to TU. Initially a music major, an entry-level psychology course uncovered her interests in research methods and statistics, eventually convincing Taylor to switch her major.
Health disparities such as preventable differences in health among people of different races inspired her plans for the future. “I knew I wanted to go into public health,” Taylor said. “I’m fascinated by how the world we live in affects our ability to be healthy.”
Rather than going directly to graduate school, Taylor felt she needed direct experience, so she applied to AIDS United AmeriCorps and accepted a service position in Tulsa. For the next year, Taylor taught health and sex education to teenagers through Planned Parenthood and Youth Services of Tulsa. “It’s difficult for a lot of people to talk about, but sex education is an important part of health,” she said. “Teenagers need to be knowledgeable and have access to sexual health services. My duties with AmeriCorps provided the direct service experience I wanted, and I gained a deeper understanding of factors that can influence people’s health.”
Following her year of AmeriCorps service, Taylor enhanced her public health experience by enrolling as a graduate student in the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. The university’s curriculum and research on community well-being reinforced her passion for improving the health of citizens, and she graduated in spring 2014 with a master of public health in epidemiology, concentrating on public health policy.
Taylor is now an epidemiologist at the Minnesota Department of Health and specializes in family home visiting. She supports the state and local public health family home visiting programs that serve at-risk moms, linking them to prenatal care and other community resources, supporting their role in effective parenting, and promoting healthy and safe home environments. The data collected by home visitors and analyzed by Taylor and the Minnesota epidemiology team are used for legislative and other state and federal reports.
“We use the data to evaluate statewide progress on family home visiting benchmark measures,” Taylor said. “Family home visiting is evidence-based and cost effective, and I really enjoy working in an area where I can contribute to society while applying my skills.”
Taylor is married to her high school sweetheart, Ian (BS ’12), a TU mechanical engineering alumnus. Looking back at her TU years, she said her foundation in psychology enriches her epidemiology role. “The field of psychology includes behavior change, which is an important part of public health; and at TU, I was introduced to classes and professors who helped me find my calling.”