A Q&A with our new public health editor, Kelley Squazzo

Kelley Squazzo joined the staff here at JHU Press at the end of last month after working for five years at Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, where she held positions as a managing editor in medical education and an acquisitions editor in health professions. She has taught literature and humanities courses and more recently taught in the electronic media and film department at Towson University. The newest member of our acquisitions team, Kelley’s been tasked with bringing fresh focus and insight to our public health and epidemiology list. Her primary public health interests include women’s health, economics, health policy, and health communication.

Q: So, after more than a decade on the commercial side of our business you’ve jumped to the university press world. What prompted this switch and how do you expect acquiring books for the JHU Press will differ from doing so at Lippincott Williams & Wilkins?

A: I’ve always wanted to work at a university press, working closely with authors to acquire and develop scholarly works. I love the atmosphere of discovery and learning that a university provides—and the Press takes that purpose even beyond the university setting, encouraging and fostering lifelong learning for a world audience.

Working in the health professions was rewarding because the books I acquired at LWW were used for workforce preparedness and job placement in a variety of careers. Despite the importance of these books and their hardworking authors, the subject matter can be lackluster at times. Medical coding and billing, for example, is not the most stimulating subject, in my opinion! I believe acquiring books at the Press will be more challenging in terms of subject matter and I look forward to engaging in enlightening conversations with authors and learning about a wide range of topics from my colleagues’ proposals as well.

Q: Public health can be defined very broadly, and books in the subject area vary widely. What types of projects—e.g., course-use, professional books, trade publications—can we expect to see coming through the pipeline when you’re all settled in?

A: As I learn more and more about the various curricula in public health programs and explore the books used in classrooms, I think books that connect science to contemporary issues with research stories, clinical vignettes, and various electronic media are great for engaging today’s student in a way that promotes critical thinking, problem solving, and lively classroom discussions.  I love our forthcoming title, Tapping into The Wire. It’s a page-turner that discusses a widely popular TV show and how it dives deeply into public health issues like drug addiction, obesity, violence, and poverty. This is a perfect classroom text as well as what I am sure will be a tremendous public interest book. These are the types of books I would like to publish: books that cross over the course-use and trade areas of our portfolio. I think these types of books are really resonating with today’s student as well as the general reading public. Also expect to see core textbooks in the field that will rival competitive publishers’ and potential digital projects on the horizon.

Q: How would you characterize the degree of difficulty in getting quality public health books out of professionals working in the field? Does a robust public health list also have room for books by journalists and other nonspecialists?

A: We are very fortunate to have the largest public health school in the world [the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health] with 597 full-time and 751 part-time faculty members who not only teach in the classroom and lab, but lead and effect change in national and international arenas. There’s a wealth of research going on at Bloomberg and other top public health schools, so I will be reaching out close to home, as well as globally, to find the best authors for the Press. I suspect, as in most fields, the challenge will be for authors balancing teaching and time for writing. The best authors are often the busiest!

I believe journalists have an in-the-moment lens into many public health topics like violence, food safety, and various health emergencies. This close perspective coupled with a public health expert could provide a compelling view into issues that really resonates with some of our readers. I definitely will not discount the role of the nonspecialist as I grow the list.

Q: What public health topics do you see as having the greatest potential to capture the attention of the book-reading general public?

A: Presently, I think health care reform is at the forefront of public discourse. Vaccination always seems to be a hot topic. For example, the recent measles resurgence is interesting and is helping to foster the perpetual debate over whether or not to vaccinate children. I also believe nutrition, diet, and alternative medicine are of interest to the book-reading general public.

Q: What are you reading for personal enjoyment these days? Got a favorite JHU Press book?

A: Right now I am reading The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka, which my book club will discuss next week! My favorite JHU Press book so far is Mary Elizabeth Garrett: Society and Philanthropy in the Gilded Ageby Kathleen Waters Sander. I attended the author reception a few years ago. Dr. Sander does an excellent job presenting the extraordinary story of a woman who used her pioneering thinking and great wealth to help equalize higher education opportunities for women.