Julie Merten, PhD

Published: August 14th, 2014

Category: Student News

Julie MertenJulie Merten recently completed her PhD in Public Health-Social and Behavioral Sciences.

During her doctoral studies at the University of Florida, she studied the prevalence and correlates of skin cancer risk behaviors among college students under the guidance of Dr. Jamie Pomeranz here in BSCH and Dr. Kim Walsh-Childers in the College of Journalism.

Her study of University of North Florida undergraduates revealed overall skin cancer prevention behaviors were inadequate. She found that white, female students over the age of 21 were more likely to use sunscreen, and texting while driving, low life satisfaction, and binge drinking predicted inadequate sunscreen use. Dr. Merten’s findings suggest that despite widespread educational efforts to reduce skin cancer, college students receive large amounts of intentional and unintentional exposure to UV radiation either from the sun or indoor tanning. Further, the identification of associations between sunscreen use and other high-risk behaviors among college students provide the framework to develop multiple risk factor interventions.

Julie Merten is now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Health at the University of North Florida. She teaches the Public Health Practice course within the MPH program and directs the undergraduate Community Health Internship program. She chairs the Northeast Florida Cancer Control Collaborative Sun Safety workgroup to improve skin cancer prevention efforts in the Northeast Florida community and is involved in the strategic planning efforts of the Florida State Cancer Plan.

Despite graduating just this month, Julie already has a list of future research initiatives. In a campus-community partnership, her future research efforts will be geared toward strategic public health initiatives including education, advocacy and awareness. These efforts including assisting public schools in grant writing to obtain funds for shade structures, training school educators in appropriate skin safety education, working with local spas and resorts on skin safety education, working with state legislators on indoor tanning restrictions, and partnering with healthcare providers to include skin care measures in wellness exams as well as standard education and referrals.

We look forward to seeing many more great things from Dr. Julie Merten in the future!