Literacy Week: “Reading Impacts Every Aspect of My Life”

Fern J. Webb, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of Florida College of Medicine - Jacksonville

In elementary school, my favorite subject was anything but reading! Admittedly, reading wasn’t my favorite since it didn’t seem too engaging. In addition, I used to be easily frustrated when reading long passages where I often forgot the main idea way before I reached the end of the story.

In middle and high school, science or any class that included hands-on activities were my clear favorites. In college, I gravitated toward math and statistics since I enjoyed the notion of solving problems in a defined way. However, as I completed graduate school, earning my master’s degree, and later earning my Doctor of Philosophy degree (Ph.D.) in Public Health, concentrating in Epidemiology and Biostatistics, I learned to value reading! In fact, reading directly impacts every aspect of my life, especially my professional work.

Let me explain. As an epidemiologist, I get paid to understand what factors keep the population healthy. Now, I have always been curious about how we stay healthy, and the causal or predictive factors that contribute to one getting ill or staying well. To understand what these factors are, I must read – a lot – from scientific journals, searching the academic libraries, reading briefs, papers and lay reports. And it essential for me to read and understand others’ scientific work in order to write and publish my expert opinions. That means I need to read even more than what I write in order to know what is current in the literature, and then write something relevant and meaningful.

I now love to read since it helps me improve the population’s health. In addition, I read for enjoyment too – I even enjoy reading mystery books … just for fun.