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Student Profile: Melisssa Tirotti

Melissa TMaster of Public Health (MPH) Concentration in Behavioral Health

Melisssa Tirotti didn’t take a straight path to the Graduate Studies In Behavioral Health Program at USF.  It was something she found along the way, after being exposed to elective courses and finding her passion taking a turn from the biomedical sciences degree she had first planned to psychology and public health.

“After my first semester at USF, it just didn’t feel right for me,” said Melissa. “I decided to take several Public Health courses, and found it fascinating and intriguing, and realized the potential for a graduate degree and career choices.”

Melissa switched her undergraduate degree to Psychology, and started working on research related to Public Health. She began volunteering with the USF Harrell Center, which serves as an intermediary between research and practice aimed at strengthening community responses to family violence.

“It was there, while working with Dr. Marti Coulter, that I was introduced to the discipline of behavioral health (i.e., the study of alcohol, drug use, and mental disorders from a public health perspective), and I loved the work that was being done in the community,” said Melissa. She participated in a pilot study that investigated the physical and mental health needs of women enrolled in a batterer intervention program.

“I saw how much effort they devoted to research at the Harrell Center. I was able to experience the whole process, all the way to witnessing the women being helped,” added Melissa. From there, she consulted with Dr. Bruce Levin and applied for the Master of Public Health (MPH) Degree program in the Graduate Studies in Behavioral Health Program.

The program, jointly offered by the USF College of Behavioral & Community Sciences (CBCS) and the USF College of Public Health (COPH), examines community and family issues in policy, evaluation, services delivery, and outcomes of alcohol, drug use, and mental disorders. Students with psychology, education, counseling, social work, nursing, medicine, and public health backgrounds analyze current trends and research in behavioral health services. Graduates are prepared to work in mental health, alcohol, drug abuse, and public health organizations, as well as in research and consulting firms.

Now in her second year of the MPH Behavioral Health Concentration Degree program, Melissa’s passion has evolved to adolescent females and promoting youth development programs. She is currently beginning her MPH Field Experience with the Girls on the Run program.  Melissa is also a graduate assistant working with Dr. Levin on a variety of projects, including the Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research. 

“Melissa continues to build her knowledge base in behavioral health, while always finding time to donate her time for various volunteer activities, including her current service as Vice President of the Behavioral Health Student Organization, an official USF student organization now in its second year of operation,” said Dr. Levin. “She is a bright, energetic, and wonderful student, and I’m sure she will be very successful working in adolescent behavioral health and public health programs in the future.”

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