University of South Florida


woman in red smiling

Euna August, PhD, MPH, MCHES.

From Baton Rouge to the CDC: The journey of one COPH alum

USF’s College of Public Health (COPH) alum Euna August describes herself as a biracial (African American and Korean) woman who hails from Baton Rouge, La. “My parents, who taught me the value of education and hard work, laid the path for me to pursue excellence,” she said.  

“I first learned about the field of public health through a college friend. As I explored public health, I realized that this was what I wanted to do.”

While her friend ended up following a different path, August said she had found her calling in public health.

a woman at a podium

August presenting at APHA 2023 as part of a panel with other colleagues from the CDC’s Office of Health Equity. (Photo courtesy of August)

August’s very first public health experience was working as a peer health advocate during her undergraduate studies at Louisiana State University. “The coordinator of the program had a Master of Public Health [MPH] and was the first person I knew with a public health degree,” she said.

Her first position after earning her MPH from Tulane University was with the Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies, a national non-profit based in New Orleans. “I began as a program director and advanced to the role of executive director in less than a year. I then served as the executive director for six years.”

And when it came time to explore doctoral programs, August chose USF.  

“I looked for a program that was interdisciplinary and dynamic, with faculty who had demonstrated leadership and commitment to working in partnership with communities, both domestically and globally,” she said. “USF emerged as a program that would give me new experiences that would bolster my skills and competencies.”

A woman standing with a CDC sign

August posing with a CDC sign at the 2023 Black Doctoral Network Conference. (Photo courtesy of August)

August explained that the extracurricular programs at USF further enriched her graduate experience and shared that a highlight during her time at USF was an experience with the late Dr. Paul Farmer, who CNN described as a physician who championed global health and sought to bring modern medical science to those most in need around the world.

“I served as an officer for the Global Health Student Association, which co-sponsored an event that brought Dr. Farmer as a speaker to USF Health. I was able to meet Dr. Farmer beforehand and participate in a more intimate discussion with other student leaders, which was inspiring and motivating. Later, after Dr. Farmer’s lecture, I gave closing remarks and acknowledged Dr. Farmer with a thank you gift and was rewarded with a hug!”

August also pointed to Dr. Donna Petersen as a person whom she admires, respects and describes as a brilliant leader. “Dr. Petersen was always very approachable and relatable. She embodies the type of public health leader that I would like to be.”

One of her proudest accomplishments during her time at the COPH was successfully defending her dissertation.

“When I began my degree program, I had a rough plan in place with a proposed timeline and concepts for my dissertation, but—as they say—the best-laid plans often go awry,” August said. “Unfortunately, I encountered multiple setbacks with my dissertation. However, with the support and guidance of my dissertation committee, I was able to achieve the goal I had set for myself. I was then able to leverage my additional training and experience and begin my new journey as a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] scientist.”

August graduated with a doctor of philosophy in public health in 2012 from USF’s COPH and says that throughout her public health career, she has worked to address public health inequities and disparities 

Currently, August serves as the deputy associate director for science in the Centers of Disease Control’s (CDC) Office of Health Equity  and has served in this capacity for nearly two years.  “What I love most about this role is that it requires that I work collaboratively and think strategically to create solutions. It requires that I balance pragmatism with innovation, which I find challenging and invigorating.”

Before taking on her current role, August served at the CDC as an evaluation fellow, a behavioral scientist and a team lead behavioral scientist. She’s received numerous honor awards for various projects and activities.

Notably, she received a CDC Honor Awards for her service in multiple emergency response efforts, including service with the CDC’s Chief Health Equity Officer Unit during the COVID-19 response (2021), the CDC’s Zika Virus Response as part of the Contraception Access Team within the Pregnancy and Birth Defects Task Force (2017), the CDC’s Indiana Injection Drug Use-Associated HIV/HCV Outbreak Response Team (2017) and the CDC’s health promotion efforts in Sierra Leone during the Ebola Response (2015). August was also recognized as an “Unsung Hero” in the Division of HIV Prevention for her service in the Prevention Communication Branch as the lead for research and evaluation (2019).

a woman smiling with a sign

August celebrating the 35th anniversary of the CDC’s initial Office of Minority Health at the 2023 National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing and Media. (Photo courtesy of August)

“What draws me to public health is its focus and impact on populations and how people experience health,” August said. “Many of the issues that I address in my work are issues that impact people in the communities in which I live and that I am a part of. I am personally connected and impacted through my lived experiences and those of my family and friends.

For the future, August says she plans to continue growing and leading with passion and conviction in public health.

“I am excited about the work that I am currently doing in health equity, and I am committed to staying on this path, contributing as an ardent advocate, mentor and scientist.”

Fast Five:

What did you dream of becoming when you were young?
A medical doctor

Where would we find you on the weekend?
Spending quality time with my family—possibly watching my son play baseball or trying out a new restaurant

What is the last book you read?
“Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,” by Greg McKeown

What superpower would you like to have?
I think my superpower would be time traveling. It would be great to be able to go back in time and experience iconic moments in history or meet noteworthy historical figures—or even just family members whom I never met—to learn more about my own personal history. Or I would choose super intelligence.

What’s your all-time favorite movie?
“The Shawshank Redemption” is the first that comes to mind, but I have a long list of favorites.

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Welcome to the USF COPH news page. Our marketing and communications team is entrusted with storytelling. Through written stories, photography, video and social media we highlight alumni, faculty, staff and students who are committed to passionately solving problems and creating conditions that allow every person the universal right to health and well-being. These are our stories.