The Public Health Beat
Philip Hudson, a former police detective who’s pursuing his master’s in public health, aims to continue a career of saving lives with insights gained from his road safety research.
By Anna Varela
At their core, public health and law enforcement may seem poles apart. But in Philip Hudson’s experience, the level of overlap between the two fields is surprising.
Looking back on seven years with the metro Atlanta police department, he recalls the time he talked a suicidal man out of cutting his own throat with a knife, stalling for time while waiting for fellow officers to arrive and subdue the man.
There are the two years he spent interviewing victims of childhood sexual abuse, carefully asking them to share traumatic details and documenting the evidence needed for their stories to be told in court.
He’s lost count of all the grave injuries and fatalities he’s responded to on the highways.
“A lot of law enforcement really overlaps with public health work,” said Hudson, 35. “We were regularly dealing with those people who have substance abuse issues and consequences of that in their life. Suicidality was a major concern, child welfare, maltreatment, mortality. Law enforcement is going to be the first one on the scene when the emergency call comes out.”
Hudson, who earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Georgia State, has always been interested in work that involves helping others. After spending two years teaching English in China, he decided to follow his father into law enforcement.
“It’s something not in an office, but you’re still out there doing something that benefits society as a whole,” he said.
Eventually, Hudson tired of the long nights and weekends spent on call, not to mention the emotional toll his work took. When he started looking for a new direction, he realized a career in public health would allow him to keep working on issues he cares about while also playing up his passion for statistics.
“It just seemed like a natural transition,” he said.
While pursuing his master’s in public health at Georgia State, Hudson has helped the Georgia Department of Public Health research roadway deaths and other safety issues and participated in a review of child fatalities by the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services. He also helped develop an awareness program for Georgia’s hands-free driving law, which went into effect July 1, putting new restrictions on the use of cellphones in cars.
As he approaches graduation in December, the former police officer, who calls datasets “fun,” sees a new world of opportunity.
“I’m learning exciting new skills here, I’m making contacts, and I can facilitate a different lifestyle,” Hudson said. “If you keep your eyes open, there are a lot of areas where the skills we learn can be applied.”
Photos by Steve Thackston