Professor Receives Leading the Narrative Award for Promoting Vaccine Equity
Monica Wang, associate professor of community health sciences, received the award from the Society of Behavioral Medicine for penning an op-ed in the Boston Globe that outlines how the Biden administration can ensure COVID-19 vaccines are accessible to all children.
Monica Wang, associate professor of community health sciences, has been named the 2022 recipient of the Leading the Narrative Award from the Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM). She recently accepted the award at SBM’s 43rd Annual Meeting on April 7.
The award recognizes a piece or series of pieces written by an SBM member that communicate behavioral medicine science to a public audience. Eligible pieces could include press articles, op-eds, podcasts, social media activity, television or radio appearances, and more.
“It is incredibly meaningful to receive this award because it is not common for academics to be recognized for engaging in science communication,” says Wang. “Much of academic culture prioritizes academic scholarship in the form of manuscripts, grants, or conference presentations over public scholarship. This award celebrates how experts in behavioral medicine can engage the public in our science and maximize impact by driving conversation and decisions that take place outside of academia, such as the policy, industry, and nonprofit sectors.”
This year’s award focused primarily on recognizing a piece that promoted health equity and inclusion. Wang received the award for her op-ed in the Boston Globe, With COVID-19 Vaccine for Younger Children, a Chance to Promote Health Equity Across All Ages, where she outlined evidence-based approaches for how the Biden administration could strengthen their plan to ensure COVID-19 vaccines for children were convenient and accessible by tailoring strategies to meet community, caregiver, and child needs.
“I wrote this piece from the perspective of a public health expert who is also a working mother to two young children,” says Wang, emphasizing that the article was meant to speak to as many different audiences as possible. “I wanted to present the scientific evidence with my expertise as a health equity researcher who works with communities and my experiences as a caregiver to highlight how we could be strategic in promoting health equity when the COVID vaccine for children ages 5-11 became available in November 2021, as vaccine access was still not equitable and vaccine hesitancy and misinformation remain critical issues we are facing.”
Utilizing narratives in communicating scientific recommendations is important in an information-saturated environment, highlights Wang, who is also the associate director of narrative at Boston University’s Center for Antiracist Research.
“Sharing human experiences plays a critical role in encouraging individuals and decision-makers to take action,” she says. “Humans are emotional beings, and telling stories has the power to build connection and capture attention.”
Wang has been a member of SBM since 2011, and has served in two leadership roles for the organization. From 2017 to 2020, she was the chair of the Civic and Public Engagement Committee, which aims to develop initiatives and events that train and support SBM members in communicating and engaging with the public about their science. Throughout her time as chair, Wang oversaw the planning and implementation of webinars and workshops to support members in strengthening their science communication skills, with topics ranging from writing compelling op-eds and creating engaging podcasts, to translating research findings into effective health policy briefs. She also formerly served as a co-chair of the obesity and eating disorder special interest group at SBM.
Founded in 1978, the Society of Behavioral Medicine is a 2,400-member organization of researchers, clinicians, and educators studying the interactions and relationships between behavioral, physiological, and biochemical states, and morbidity and mortality to provide new perspectives and progress on human behavior, health, and illness.