While completing her PhD in Strategic and Health Communication at George Mason University in April 2014, Dr. Suzie Carmack promoted health and well-being at local, national and international levels.
“Although I came to Mason with 20 years of professional experience in consulting and college teaching, my doctoral studies in communication afforded me the opportunity to really take my career to the next level, and to become a translational scholar. The opportunities to research theory, best practice and evidence-based solutions have all greatly influenced the ways that I tackle any consulting project. I greatly enjoy the process of bringing the findings of the latest scholarship into user-based campaign and project design. Mason taught me how to do that, and has also challenged me to bring lessons learned from strategic health campaign design back into scholarship. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to study at Mason as a funded scholar.”
While at Mason, Suzie served as a research assistant to Dr. Gary Kreps and taught courses in the areas of interpersonal and health communication. She also taught sport communication for the School of Health Recreation and Tourism, and conducted an audit of well-being amongst Mason faculty staff and students with funding support from the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being.
Suzie's dissertation explored the role of sense-making, communication competence and social support in well-being, and offered a progressive analysis of the challenges of defining well-being as a construct separate from health and wellness. Ultimately her research showed that well-being functions as a sense-making process, and as such, can be conceptualized as a process of communication. Her research further showed that communication competence and social support are not only correlated with all types of well-being (physical, mental, emotional and comprehensive) - they predict it.
"We can't always prevent an illness or manage one when it arrives. But we can promote well-being by approaching well-being as a sense-making process – how we make sense of our lives. The ways that we communicate to ourselves, others and within cultures greatly influence the quality of life we achieve and sustain no matter how healthy or ill we may be."
Also while at Mason, Suzie continued her independent consulting work and scholarship in the area of health promotion in work/life contexts. Based on her doctoral studies, she refined her "CenteredBeing" strategic health campaign to promote the practice of daily movement and mindfulness in the workplace and other sedentary environments. In the three years she was at Mason, this campaign received both local and international recognition. Globally, CenteredBeing was called a "new office habit" by the Washington Post (2012); presented at the American Public Health Association (2012) and the National Academies of Practice (2012); and inspired the Pan American offices of the World Health Organization to ask Suzie to consult their 34 offices on work/life stress management (2013 and 2014).
While earning her doctorate, Suzie also made an impact on the local community by creating the CenteredBeing after-school program that continues to inspire students from throughout Fairfax County and northern Virginia to practice yoga-based movement and mindfulness as a means of stress management and physical activity.
Today, Dr. Carmack serves on the faculty of the Department of Health Studies at American University. Her book, Well-Being Ultimatum: A Self-Care Guide for Strategic Healers - Those Who Live in the Leadership, Service and Healing of Others, explores how those in high-stakes and high-purpose-driven fields have unique well-being needs, and shares a strategic approach for these professionals for work/life well-being balance.
As an interdisciplinary scholar, Suzie's formal education includes a PhD in health and strategic communication (Mason, 2014); a Master of Education in Health and Kinesiology (University of Texas at Tyler, 2006); a Master of Fine Arts degree in Theatre/Arts Administration (Alabama Shakespeare Festival/University of Alabama, 1991) and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Arts (Allegheny College, 1989). She enjoys spending quality time with her three children (Chris, 20, Brandon, 18 and Sophia, 12) and her partner Bob Shircliff.