Dr. Beth Sundstrom, originally from Massachusetts, is a graduate faculty member for the University of Charleston, South Carolina. She teaches COMM 514: Social Media, COMM 520: Communication Campaigns, and COMM 580: Special Topics in Social Marketing. She is also a member of the Public Health faculty, an associate professor with the Department of Communication, and a faculty affiliate in the Women’s and Gender Studies program. She holds an Adjunct Assistant Professorship in the Department of Public Health Sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and serves as an Adjunct Professor for Brown University’s Summer@Brown Program. She is also well published; authoring and co-authoring various journal articles, conference papers, book chapters, and encyclopedia articles.
Dr. Sundstrom received her Ph.D in Communication from the University of Maryland, College Park, with a specialization in health communication and public relations. Prior to that, she completed a Master of Public Health (M.P.H.) from Brown University with a specialization in health communication and women’s health, and graduated summa cum laude from Tulane University with a B.A. in political science.
Q: What are your teaching and/or research interests?
BS: Currently, I teach undergraduate and graduate courses on topics of strategic communication, social marketing, and health communication. I also serve on the public health steering committee within the public health major.
My research interests include strategic health communication, social marketing, and women’s health. I am a multiple methods researcher, with expertise in survey design methodology and qualitative methods, particularly interviews and focus groups.
Q: Why do you choose to teach and advise in the MCOM program?
BS: I choose to teach and advise in the MCOM program because I believe that the central tenet of graduate education is the opportunity to investigate gaps in an existing body of knowledge through the conduct of original research. Research studies offer theoretical knowledge and/or applied knowledge that can be used by professionals working in the field. As an advisor in the MCOM program, my objective is to mentor each of my advisees toward becoming independent, life-long learners and outstanding scholars and practitioners. I enjoy guiding graduate students through the design and completion of original research studies that contribute to the field.
Q: Describe a project, class or academic experience that you are currently working on.
BS: A project I am currently working on is the Women’s Health Research Team (WHRT), for which I am the co-director. The WHRT is a group of faculty, undergraduate and graduate students dedicated to improving women’s health in South Carolina and beyond. The WHRT is currently collaborating with a women’s health organization to increase health care access among rural women in South Carolina. According to the Commonwealth Fund, South Carolina ranks 43rd in the nation for primary care physician-to-patient ratio, and 39th for patient access to health care. All but one county in South Carolina are designated as health professional shortage areas. Research within the state shows rural residents being more likely to report poor health status and to defer health care due to cost. Those health care disparities are often inflated for women’s services, as they require specialized care and providers. Telemedicine is a cost effective and highly satisfactory mode of health care; therefore the WHRT is partnering with a women’s health organization to develop and evaluate a telemedicine program to address barriers to health care in rural areas, especially in women’s services.
Q: What is a fun fact about you that most people do not know?
BS: The materials adapted from my Health Communication Capstone course were recognized as the Multi-Media Category overall winner in the 24th Annual Public Health Education and Health Promotion Public Health Materials Contest of the American Public Health Association (APHA) in 2014. Also, my book, Reproductive Justice and Women’s Voices: Health Communication Across the Lifespan, will be published this fall.
Q: What is one piece of advice that you would give incoming or current graduate students?
BS: Get involved!! Find a faculty member or research team that shares your interests and start developing your passion. The Women’s Health Research Team is always looking for motivated students to join our work.