RCGV member April Zeoli recently spoke at the annual TEDMED conference in Palm Springs, California! We want to celebrate Dr. Zeoli’s accomplishment by sharing a little bit about her experience with you. We asked her a few questions and have provided her answers below. Congrats Dr. Zeoli, we look forward to celebrating your future accomplishments!
1. Tell us a little about yourself.
AZ: I’m a public health researcher who became faculty at a School of Criminal Justice. Over the years, I’ve benefitted from both fields and have been referred to as a “public health criminologist.” I’m also a mother of two amazing sons and have a wonderful and incredibly supportive husband.
2. Tell us a little about your research.
AZ: My research focuses on the prevention of intimate partner violence and homicide. The risk of intimate partner homicide increases when a violent intimate has access to a gun, and the majority of intimate partner homicides are committed with guns. Because of this risk, we have federal and state laws that legally restrict some intimate partner violence perpetrators from having guns. My research focuses on the impact of those laws (e.g., do they reduce intimate partner homicide rates?) and how they are implemented in communities (e.g., how do local authorities make sure that someone restricted from having a gun doesn’t have a gun?).
3. What is the most important take away from your research on firearms and intimate partner violence?
AZ: The most important message is that when states have certain laws prohibiting intimate partner violence perpetrators from having guns, intimate partner homicide rates go down. This suggests that these laws save lives. Because we know that these laws aren’t being implemented to the fullest extent in every single community (in other words, we know that not every person restricted from accessing a gun relinquishes all the guns they already have), it is possible that even more lives can be saved with better implementation of the laws.
4. You recently spoke at the TEDMED conference in California. How was preparing for the talk, what did you do in preparation?
AZ: Writing the talk took several weeks. I had to learn how to write a talk for a general audience, instead of writing it like a lecture or a scientific paper. As a professor who gives multiple lectures a week and writes multiple scientific papers a year, this was quite a challenge. Once the talk was written, I had to memorize it. There are no teleprompters for TEDMED speakers! I memorized this 15-minute talk one paragraph at a time, and practiced it every time I drove somewhere. I also had support from the TEDMED team who video conferenced with me several times before the event and gave me tips on delivery.
5. Is public speaking something you enjoy, something you were looking forward to?
AZ: I do enjoy public speaking. As researchers, so much of what we do is unseen. When I speak publicly, I get immediate feedback from the audience and can start a dialogue with them that goes on after the talk is over. Public speaking starts conversations in a way that publishing a paper is not able to. I study firearm laws and intimate partner violence. My research results need to be communicated to the public so they can communicate what firearm laws they want their state or federal government to have to their legislators. My research, ultimately, is for the public. Public speaking, particularly at high profile events like TEDMED, is the best way to share my research with the public.
6. Tell us about the experience of talking about your research in front of a large audience.
AZ: While there were multiple hundred people in the TEDMED auditorium, there were countless others watching the live stream of the event. And there will be even more, possibly over a million people (this is not uncommon for TEDMED talks), that will see the talk once it is freely available on the web. I am an accomplished public speaker, but the number of people who will see this talk, and the way in which this talk defines my career at this moment, made me nervous. But, it was a wonderful experience and has led to more opportunities to share my research with the general public.
7. How did the crowd respond to your presentation?
AZ: The crowd was great. Very attentive. I got a standing ovation after the presentation.
8. Is this something you would want to do again?
AZ: I would love to do something like TEDMED again. It was an incredible amount of work, but definitely worth it.
9. Is there anywhere we can access your talk online?
AZ: There isn’t yet, but there will be. TEDMED will release the talk for people to freely view online sometime in 2019. The date they will post the talk has not been decided yet, but I will let you know as soon as I do.
10.Anything else worth mentioning about the experience overall?
AZ: Being a TEDMED speaker was an honor and a privilege. It is one of the highlights of my career. The best part about it, though, is the visibility that it gives to my research findings that suggest that we can save lives with firearm restrictions for intimate partner violence perpetrators.