Dr Joy Balls-Berry Epidemiology


Joy is a Professor in Epidemiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis.  She is a medical detective who works to increase awareness of the importance of communities and research to improve health in minority and under-resourced communities. She received the Mayo Clinic Teacher of the Year Award for the Graduate School and Educator of the Year for the Center for Clinical and Translational Science Awards.

“My advice to parents is, if their child wants to read something, let them read it, no matter what it could be the cereal box or graphic novel, or the newspaper and then be willing to have the tough conversations with them. And then the other thing is, for those students that are struggling with writing, you know, using online tools like Grammarly and Paperrater are really helpful. There are free versions of those where they don’t have to necessarily play them, but also using another thing called an actual reader where they can plug in what they’ve written and they can hear what’s going on, because then they’ll be able to correct the mistakes from the grammars, grammatically, as well. But then for the students to just be encouraged that that what some might see as a disability is actually a power for them to be able to see the world very differently.”

Joy explained that medical epidemiologists do detective work to figure out what’s really behind diseases and risks. When Joy was in college and wondering what she wanted to do, her father suggested she do a summer internship to learn more about what happens to babies born to HIV-positive moms. It was there that she found out that she loved epidemiology and did her Master’s degree. She would later become a lab manager, then received her Ph.D. from the University of Toledo and postdoc’ed at the University of Florida Gainsville.

In my discussion with Joy about the challenges in her path to her career, she shared her frustrations about being identified with “reading challenges”, but not with dyslexia in school. The end result was that she didn’t receive any accommodations and although she had helpful teachers along the way, she struggled with standardized tests like the GRE and some science lecture courses, although she scored well in college science labs.




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January 27, 2022

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