By Betsy Simon
Apr 10, 2019
Darleesa Doss took every perceived hurdle in her life and turned it into a positive, something she is now doing for Indiana State University students as an assistant professor of applied health sciences since 2013.
“What drew me to the field of public health was my own personal journey. I struggled with being obese from elementary and middle school and was more into academics than being involved in sports and eating healthy,” she said. “I dealt with a lot of negative consequences of that, which ranged from physical health to social issues at school. One day, I asked my mother what she did to improve her health after she had children – I’m the youngest of four. She said she changed her eating style and started exercising.”
It was a message Doss took to heart beginning in middle school, as she began to transition her lifestyle to improve her physical and emotional wellbeing.
“Then I got into college and I was going to go in to the nursing program but decided that wasn’t what I really wanted to do, so I met with my advisor and discussed the opportunity to pursue a degree in public health. I really wanted to work with people, and study behavior change, which is something I had to do myself,” she said. “We talked about possible careers and I decided to pursue my Bachelor of Science in public health from Indiana University-Bloomington.”
Doss’ interest in public health, and health disparities didn’t go unnoticed by one of her professors and mentors, who encouraged to go to graduate school.
“I’m also a first-generation student so when my professor asked me about going on to graduate school, I honestly hadn’t given it much thought. However, I was really interested in public health and he thought I had a shot, so I applied and got accepted into the graduate program,” she said. “From there, my interest in the field grew and I started volunteering with a lot of community health organizations and served with AmeriCorps and applied for my PhD in health behavior. I love working with individuals and thinking about behaviors and how to improve their health status.”
Doss’ public health background is focused on obesity health prevention, which impacted her life experience.
“I focus a lot on physical activity, nutrition among high risk populations, especially underserved and minority populations. I’m very passionate about that as a way to try to understand how we can improve the health status for individuals with my own background,” she said. “I know it takes more than just going to a community and doing research, but I want to learn more about how we can provide the tools and resources to empower individuals to improve their overall health status.”
Doss, a Gary, Ind. native, uses her knowledge to better the Terre Haute community, where she sits on the board for the Minority Health Coalition, works closely with the United Way of the Wabash Valley’s Get Healthier by 2020 initiative and with Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
She teaches undergraduate courses in introduction to public health, research methods, epidemiology, program planning, human sexuality, senior seminar and serves as internship coordinator for our undergraduates. At the graduate level, she’s taught introduction to public health, research methods, program planning and epidemiology.
“I use a student-centered teaching approach in the classroom, which simply means that students are encouraged to be part of the discussion,” she said. “I do a lot of hands-on activities and discussions that hopefully help students to grasp the material and apply it.”
Doss views her role on campus as both a professor and mentor for her students.
“I love having students come into the classroom without the information or background in public health and being able to challenge them as they will be the ones working in our communities.”