Featured Alumni from The College of Human Ecology


Keeley Pratt’s research is creating new ways of looking at many challenging healthcare issues. Pratt, who earned her master’s degree in marriage and family therapy and her PhD in medical family therapy, is a postdoctoral scientist at the Research Triangle Institute International in Research Triangle Park near Raleigh. She also has taught undergraduate courses for the Department of Child Development and Family Relations and supervised marriage and family therapy students completing internships in pediatrics.  Pratt writes and submits federal grants through RTI’s Obesity Signature Program, which explores childhood obesity and other chronic health conditions in pediatrics. Her research through the program combines her expertise with other areas of science to explore health, illness, and disease prevention. “I have been particularly excited about new innovative and collaborative ways of looking at existing health-care challenges,” she says. “I’m part of a multidisciplinary research team at RTI, where we are conceptually tackling health issues spanning from genes to relationships to public policy.”

Pratt’s industry is constantly evolving because of research and discovery, an idea that she finds fulfilling and encouraging. Noninvasive treatments for child health are being developed, and new ways of monitoring that process are being sought. Research is shedding new light on the need for a more personalized approach to treatment, rather than a “one-size-fits-all” approach for families with specific health conditions.  “More emphasis is being placed on culture, spirituality, and economic valuables that pertain to health,” she says.  Opportunities like Pratt’s abound for students in the marriage and family therapy master’s degree program, she says. The program’s strengths lie in its ability to prepare students to be competent in theory and confident in their capacity to serve families with diverse issues and needs. “The medical family therapy program is the first of its kind in the world,” she says. “Upon entering the field after graduation, students may choose one of several paths.” These include academic positions in marriage and family therapy or at medical schools, research positions with state or federal programs, or administrative or clinical work in behavioral health-care settings. Pratt appreciates the faculty who guided her to her own path and profession. “I have been fortunate to have incredible faculty mentors and colleagues that have encouraged me, to pursue areas of research, teaching, supervision, and clinical work that I am passionate about,” she says.

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