Staff Writer: Alexandria Sessions
While students were gearing up and preparing for in-person classes, Dr. Ralph Frasca, Chair of the Communication and Arts department at Wingate University, was preparing for a new addition to the Communication Department staff. After two weeks of interviews and careful consideration from both the search committee and selected students. while the decision was tough, the hiring process concluded with Dr. Kimberly Kristfuek being hired to teach the new Health Communication Concentration at Wingate University.
Kristufek received her Bachelor’s degree in interpersonal communication and broadcast cinematic arts from Central Michigan University. The National Society of Collegiate Scholars member continued at CMU to receive her Master’s degree. During that time she worked as a teacher assistant and completed a thesis about the use of virtual worlds in the healthcare industry. The next stop in her educational journey was at Wayne State University where she was awarded the Thomas C. Rumble Fellowship to study the topic of fat talk communication.
“During my time at Wayne State University, I worked with the World
Health Organization to better understand disaster preparedness in underdeveloped countries,” Kristufek said.
“After one year at Wayne State University, I transferred to George Mason University to get my Ph.D. in health communication… My dissertation investigated fat talk in romantic relationships and healthcare outcomes.”
Along with studying for her Ph.D. and writing her dissertation, she taught Public Speaking at GMU and prepared graduate students for research in her Graduate Research Method course.
Frasca points out that Kristufek experiences under the health and communication umbrella were substantial.
“We [search committee] thought Dr. Kristufek was the best because she was more advanced in her career and she had work experience in the healthcare field…and we thought that she’d also be a good fit here with our students and our colleagues,” Frasca said.
While her career experience spoke loud volumes to the search committee and the Communication Dept Head, Kristufek’s own life experience was the most audible to her. She decided to pair her passion for patient-centered healthcare with her own life experiences to help others with a similar past.
“I have struggled with an eating disorder my entire life. When I graduated high school, I was underweight and anorexic. When I started college, I had to have steroid treatments that made me gain a significant amount of weight,” Kristufek said.
“The experience of being both underweight and overweight influenced my desire to help patients and healthcare providers to better discuss weight management together.”
The health communication researcher saw potential at Wingate to further her research with, and expand upon, the communication department and the public health program. While the research was a plus, educational growth was not the only thing that caught her attention.
“The University’s faith-based mission also made me feel comfortable and welcome. I felt like this would be a good place to raise a family and make a difference,” Kristufek said.
Kristufek has big plans while she is at Wingate, and she hopes to contribute towards implementing diversity in course topics and internships in the Health Communication concentration while also collaborating with other departments on campus.
“I would like to help the communication department be seen as a credible department where students can gain valuable skills that will transfer into a post-college career. I’d also like to help the communication department collaborate with other health-focused departments on the Wingate campus,” Kristufek said.
“I would also love to find internship opportunities in the health industry and bring those opportunities to communication majors. The department is also desperately in need of entertainment trivia, particularly the difference between Star Wars and Star Trek and the history of Superman comics. It is my hope I can impart both my health knowledge and my geek knowledge on my colleagues and students.”
Kristufek will be teaching Public Speaking, Health Communication, and Organizational Communication. The soon-to-be Wingate professor advises future students who are looking forward to taking her courses, to come prepared to learn skills that would be great on a resume and to reach out to her whenever they need assistance. The recent hire wants to give her students time to work on group projects, classwork, and discussion because she values productivity.
“I would like my students to know that my lectures tend to be shorter than average to allow class time for group projects and discussion. In my health courses, as well as my other communication courses, we will analyze healthcare research and learn translatable skills that students can put on their resumes,” Kristufek said.
Anyone can take her classes, including Health Communication, without having prior knowledge about the field.
Professor Kristufek will be starting in the fall semester and thinks health communication will be a beneficial course to bring to the department. The topics will range from fake news, to how the media plays a role in the spread of medical information.
“I think having this type of media literacy will make students better able to navigate a healthcare landscape that utilizes and is influenced by the media,” Kristufek said.
Other than her plans of teaching at Wingate, she wants to make a bigger impact on the community.
“Another passion of mine is animal rights, and I am looking forward to the chance to influence Wingate into making some new cruelty-free choices on campus,” Kristufek said, “ I think that together we can help shape the health of patients, providers, and animals around campus and our community.”