Avery E. Holton
There is perhaps no more critical time for the study of health and mass communication than now. Avery feels that as more and more people turn to digital platforms and social networks for news and information to guide their health beliefs and actions, that researchers are challenged to study not only the content the public consumes but also the creators of that content and the networks they build and reach. Avery’s research, thus, focuses on the development of social networks, particularly on digital platforms, around salient health topics. He is examining the interpersonal and strategic communication patterns of the public, of health practitioners and officials, and of the media. His aim is to understand how communication around health topics blossoms within these platforms, how networks form, and with what potential (and actual) results on health behavior.
Avery’s research approaches a relatively unexplored intersection of multiple practices and areas of scholarship. And as such, he feels it is critical to explore the role of multiple disciplines in health communication by examining areas such as communication studies, strategic communication, digital journalism, and social networking. He aims to describe the importance of each medium within emerging health information networks. Such research can help health practitioners and scholars understand the communication patterns of the public, make more sound communication choices based on thoughtful data, and possibly improve health outcomes for traditionally under-served segments of the population. Avery feels that while this is a broad aim, it is one that begins with the exploration of the marriage of many disciplines surrounding health communication and behavior.
Avery remarked that his family is one of resilience and determination. He said that his parents have sacrificed much so that his brother, his sisters and he could find their own paths and work toward their own dreams. Avery said he took that for granted when he was younger. He wanted more material things, more shiny toys and more adventurous vacations. His parents saw beyond such trivialities, pushing them to grow beyond even their own expectations. In doing so, they helped Avery achieve such extraordinary opportunities as the William Powers, Jr. Fellowship. This unique fellowship allows Avery to pursue his scholarship at the highest level, relying less on support from the multiple jobs he has held for the first three years of his doctoral work and more on the free time he now has. Avery is able not only to dedicate more time to the critical areas of his research, but he also has the necessary funds to access the technologies that he needs to complete his dissertation. Additionally, he is able to attend more scholarly conventions, sharing his work with others while learning from them. Avery feels that The William Powers, Jr. Fellowship is more than just a reward for his dedication to scholarship, it is an opportunity to build on the resilience and determination his parents have worked so hard to pass on to the rest of his family.