David Colston is a third-year doctoral student in the Department of Health Behavior at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.

We reached out to Colston to learn more about his work, his life, and his academic journey through the following Q & A.

How did you get into injury and violence prevention work?

I have long been interested in public health, but became truly passionate about injury and violence prevention after reading an ethnography by Dr. Kelly Ray Knight titled Addicted. Pregnant. Poor., which detailed the interconnected nature of how racism, sexism, classism, and inequitable policy shapes the landscape for substance use disparities among a population experiencing unstable housing in San Francisco. Since reading that work, my career in the substance use space has taken hold, and I now focus on understanding what leads to drug-related mortality and how systems can be improved to reduce overdose in the United States.

What projects are you currently working on, and what makes them exciting to you?

In terms of data collection and practice, I have been fortunate to lead one arm of a community-based intervention related to understanding and improving outcomes for substance use in Appalachian Ohio, and have been at the forefront of data collection on CDC-funded work to better understand polysubstance use in North Carolina. I am also fortunate to have worked on a number of manuscripts (published and forthcoming), expanding my knowledge about substance use and gaining experience in both qualitative and quantitative data analytic techniques.

What were you doing before you started your program at UNC?

Before starting in the Health Behavior program at UNC Gillings, I received my Masters in Public Health in Global Health Epidemiology from the University of Michigan, where I also worked for several years analyzing the impact of tobacco control policies on health equity in the US. I also have dual Bachelors degrees in Anthropology and Public Administration from Miami University (Ohio).

What do you enjoy doing outside of work and school?

I love to spend time outside with my wife, dog, and chickens – hiking, birding, you name it. I also like travelling and watching sports, and when work/school get stressful, I thoroughly enjoy reality tv.

What makes you unique?

I have chickens! Let me know if you ever need fresh eggs!

UNC IPRC’s Injury and Violence Prevention Fellowship program provides an opportunity for UNC-Chapel Hill graduate and professional students from diverse academic, professional, and demographic backgrounds to gain hands-on experience in injury and violence prevention by working with faculty mentors, networking, and pursuing professional development opportunities.