University of South Florida


One postdoc’s journey from MCH fellowship to the CDC

Dr. Megan Barry recently completed a postdoctoral maternal and child health (MCH) fellowship with the USF College of Public Health (COPH).

The COPH’s postdoctoral MCH fellowship is a two-year program with a particular emphasis on research pertaining to maternal/infant health, child/adolescent health, women’s health, sexual/reproductive health, family/community violence and unintentional injury. 

woman standing in front of research poster

                       Megan Barry, PhD, stands next to a poster presentation of research she conducted while at the COPH. (Photo                                                                                                           courtesy of Barry)

“I really love MCH, and I was drawn to this fellowship by its MCH focus,” Barry said. “It was so fun to be in an environment where so many people were so passionate about MCH issues. I really enjoyed the fellowship and getting to know the wonderful faculty and students at USF.”

Barry, who is now a health scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said some of the highlights of the fellowship included collaborating on a paper with Dr. Jason Salemi, one of her mentors, on COVID-19 in infants and working with the COPH’s Dr. Chighaf Bakour’s National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) research group. 

An additional high point, said Barry, was helping Drs. Cheryl Vamos, another one of her mentors, and  Dr. Jill McCracken, a USF professor of English and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, apply for a grant (that was ultimately awarded) focused on evaluating a teen pregnancy prevention curriculum called Choosing Myself. 

“I really loved working with the Choosing Myself team to design the intervention, make certain we were measuring what we wanted to measure, and making sure we were asking questions that were appropriate and understandable for teens,” Barry said of developing the evaluation. “This was such a fun mix of evaluation, implementation evaluation, survey development and health literacy, and I loved being able to support the project from the very beginning.”

The MCH fellowship also gave Barry some welcome experience in the classroom.

“In the fall of 2021, I was fortunate to be able to co-teach Issues and Concepts in MCH with the now-retired Dr. Bill Sappenfield,” Barry said. “Dr. Sappenfield has both an amazing knowledge of MCH and an incredible gift for teaching. But he also did a wonderful job of including me and listening to my thoughts and ideas. I loved working with him and learning so much from him about teaching, how to handle disciplinary issues, etc.”

Since September, Barry has been working with the Injury Control Research Center (ICRC) Program, part of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. The CDC-funded ICRCs help raise awareness, perform research and develop prevention programs to protect Americans from injury and violence.

Barry said a big part of her job is helping to evaluate and highlight the innovative research, outreach and training the ICRCs are conducting.

“So many aspects of my postdoctoral fellowship helped prepare me for my work at the CDC,” she said. “Refining my writing, practicing my communication and mentoring skills, and working on evaluations—with a special focus on implementation evaluations—all helped prepare me for the work I am doing today.”

What’s next on Barry’s horizon? For right now, she says, more of the same.

“I love my job and am planning to work at the CDC indefinitely,” she said. “I feel so fortunate to be here!”

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