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College of Public Health Faculty Highlights

May 03, 2023
Kent faculty members Sheryl Chatfield, Ph.D., Deric Kenne, Ph.D., and Tara C. Smith, Ph.D.

Spring 2023

Kent State University's College of Public Health (COPH) faculty are engaged in community-based, relevant research and public health programs, continuing the tradition of excellence and service that began when Kent State was founded as a public research university in 1910. In this post, we introduce you to three of the COPH professors who are actively engaged with their communities and their students, and with advancing knowledge in their areas of expertise.

Sheryl Chatfield, Ph.D.

Associate Professor Cheryl Chatfield has been with the College of Public Health since 2015. In addition to teaching, she is Co-coordinator of the Graduate Certificate in Qualitative Research at Kent State University. She is a member of the Kent State Design Innovation Team, where she is in the first cohort of Faculty Fellows.

The Design Innovation program brings together students, faculty, community and leading experts from diverse disciplines who thoughtfully address technology and society through design to become creative, intersectional problem-solvers and fearless collaborators in the face of complex, messy problems.

Chatfield is also the editor-in-chief of the Ohio Journal of Public Health and senior editor for the online peer-reviewed journal TQR: The Qualitative Report.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Chatfield led a team of researchers, including Kent State University colleague Deric R. Kenne, Ph.D., in a study of students' coping strategies at a large university during the pandemic. The mixed methods study explored relationships between students' mental health, as measured through scores on resilience and flourishing, with specific coping strategies associated with the onset of COVID-19.

Published in the Building Healthy Academic Communities Journal, the research report concluded that the most efficacious coping strategies were engaging in spiritual and religious activities and compliance with COVID-19 recommendations. However, these strategies were only used by a few surveyed students. Exercise, a popular option, also scored relatively high on the two mental health measures.

Based on their data, the researchers also concluded that universities could take steps to better support students in handling future disruptions by helping them develop coping strategies before they are needed and by working to ensure the wide availability of counseling services during disruptions. Learn more about the research.

Learn more about Sheryl Chatfield.

Deric Kenne, Ph.D.

Professor Deric Kenne has more than 15 years of experience as a researcher and practitioner in academic and nonprofit settings. His research interests encompass substance abuse and treatment, mental health and program evaluation. He teaches health policy and management courses in the online Master of Public Health program.

Kenne is the interim director of the Center for Public Policy and Health (CPPH), the Kent State organization whose mission is to “conduct research to develop and improve public policies aimed at enhancing the public’s health, and to provide targeted assistance to public, non-profit, and private sector organizations.”1

Kenne has helped secure several million dollars in state and federally-funded research and service grants and has authored or co-authored numerous articles.

Under his leadership and in collaboration with Health Recovery Services in Athens, Ohio, the CPPH has recently secured a 5-year, $3.7 million grant from the US Department of Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The grant will fund expanded access to medication-assisted treatment for Opioid Use Disorder, along with comprehensive psychosocial services, outreach and engagement strategies to increase treatment access, and the development of funding mechanisms and treatment delivery models with rural and resource-limited communities. Learn more about this project.

The CPPH pursues collaborative projects such as the SAMHSA grant because they allow the collaborators to focus on their key competencies in delivering needed substance abuse or mental health services, while the CPPH provides grant writing and program management expertise.

Kenne and the Center for Public Policy and Health also developed grant-funded mental health awareness gatekeeper training programs appropriate for use in school settings. The shorter, more accessible and appropriately focused trainings increase general mental health knowledge, reduce the stigma often attached to mental illness and develop the skills to make referrals to mental health professionals.

Learn more about Deric Kenne.

Tara C. Smith, Ph.D.

Professor Tara Smith is an Ohio native who joined the Kent State University College of Public Health faculty in August 2013. She is an epidemiologist whose research generally focuses on zoonotic infections (those transferred between animals and humans). She was the first researcher to identify livestock-associated strains of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in the U. S. and has pioneered its investigation.

Smith is very active in science communications and outreach and has just published a project on which she collaborated with Kent State colleagues from the School of Communication Studies and the School of Emerging Media and Technology. The 2021 study, “Family Communication Patterns and Parents’ Intentions to Vaccinate Their Child Against COVID-19” was published in the Health Communication journal and surveyed 702 families in Ohio, New York, Georgia and Texas.

The researchers examined how family communication patterns relate to parents' health decisions for themselves and their children. They also discussed the potential benefits of applying family communication patterns theory to complicated situations involving health care decisions. Learn more about the study.

Smith has received more than $3 million in funding from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). She has presented to Congress on the topic of agriculture and antibiotic resistance and published five books on infectious diseases, along with more than 100 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters. (Full publication list can be found at Google Scholar). She presents her research regularly, and her work has been featured in major publications, including Science, Nature and The New York Times. Smith is affiliated with the Environmental Science and Design Research Initiative, the Global Understanding Research Initiative, and the Healthy Communities Research Initiative and is a Zombie Research Society board member.

Learn more about Tara Smith.

Improve Public Health in Your Community Kent State

Kent State University's online College of Public Health offers an online Master of Public Health (MPH) with three specializations and an online Master of Science in Clinical Epidemiology. The COPH has more than 300 community partners, and our faculty members have secured millions in grant funding for research and public health programs. Our online programs are both convenient and well-respected. Pursue your passion for public health with the expert, engaged faculty in Kent State's CEPH and ASPPH-accredited, online Master of Public Health program. Reach out to one of our Admissions Advisors for more information today. If you’re ready to get started, begin your application here.


1. Retrieved on May 3, 2023, from kent.edu/cpph