Faculty Researcher Spotlight: Shelly Hovick

ShellyHovickShelly Hovick, PhD, enjoys combining her passion for research and education by working as an assistant professor in The Ohio State School of Communication. She joined the school in 2013.

“I love having both a research and teaching position,” said Hovick. “I like having the flexibility to ask interesting questions and investigate those questions, and to research things that are interesting to me. I also love working with students.”

Hovick is no stranger to academic programs at universities around the country. After earning a B.A. in Communication Studies from the University of Iowa, an M.A. in Communication from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and Ph.D. in Speech Communication at the University of Georgia, she chose Ohio State as the setting to continue her career in communication academia.

During her undergraduate studies, Hovick completed an independent study where she discovered her love of research. After finishing her undergraduate studies, she worked for a nonprofit food bank. Her work with the organization sparked an interest in health communication and disparities and inspired her to continue her education.

“I am interested in people’s perceptions of their risk for cancer and other chronic diseases and the extent to which they respond to risks with information seeking and the adoption of prevention and early detection behaviors,” Hovick said.

Her research investigates how families communicate about their health history, as well as facilitators and barriers for these kinds of conversations. She tests tools that help individuals research and understand their personal family health history and risks. Hovick regularly publishes in journals such as Health Communication and Journal of Health Communication and received divisional top paper honors for two papers she co-authored from the National Communication Association for her efforts.

Genetics also play a big role in Hovick’s work. She collaborates with a genetic counseling program about the most effective ways to communicate risk.

“What drives people to seek information about their health?” Hovick said. “Information about disease prevention is helpful, but lots of people don’t seek it out. If they do seek it out, what impact does it have on their behavior?”

Moving forward, she will conduct more tests and clinical trials to investigate these questions and discover viable solutions to increase overall prevention behavior. Hovick regularly collaborates with the OSUCCC-The James Cancer Center and is currently working on a new statewide endometrial cancer initiative called OPTEC (Ohio Prevention and Treatment of Endometrial Cancer). This project, which was funded by Pelotonia, will offer free screening for an inherited condition called Lynch Syndrome, which will be eligible to women in participating hospitals across Ohio.

Because her research program involves the application of theory to solve health communication problems, Dr. Hovick has a strong interest in engaged scholarship and teaching and, when possible, likes to connect students to community partners.  She co-developed and co-teaches a course called “Language, Culture and Communication in Latino health” with Dr. Glenn Martinez (Department of Spanish and Portuguese) where students develop health communication interventions (in Spanish) for local organizations serving Spanish-speaking patients. In spring 2017, students developed interventions for La Clinica Latina, an on-campus free clinic supported by the Ohio State University College of Medicine, as well as PrimaryOne Health.  

“Every time I teach the class, something happens on campus,” said Hovick, “which allows for real-world, real-time application in the classroom.”

She has also collaborated with the Ohio State Spanish Department to create the Language, Culture and Communication in Latino Health course, which explores issues such as interventions and language barriers while providing students with service learning opportunities in the community.

“Ohio State has one of the best groups of faculty you can find,” said Hovick. “and great undergraduate students to work and interact with.”

Article written by student Tristen Spahr