Meet CCI Alumna Donnica Smalls, Health Communications Specialist

CCI Alumna Donnica Smalls is making health information accessible, consistent, and inclusive through her role with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Donnica graduated from Florida State in 2012 with her Master’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communications. After graduating, she joined CDC as a Public Affairs Specialist. During that time, she specialized in external communications for the agency. In 2021, Donnica transitioned to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP) where she works as a Health Communications Specialist. In her current role, she develops communication for both internal and external audiences that is consistent and appropriate. Additionally, she works on NCCDPHP’s diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) communications portfolio. In her work, she is committed to reaching groups that have been marginalized or under-resourced. 

Chronic disease affects diverse populations across the nation. Six in ten Americans live with at least one chronic disease, like heart disease and stroke, cancer, or diabetes,” Donnica told CCI, “Many chronic diseases could be prevented or delayed through lifestyle changes, such as eating well, being physically active, avoiding tobacco and excessive drinking, and getting regular health screenings. This is why it’s so important that communicators in NCCDPHP work to tailor messages that reach communities across the nation.” Their team focuses on education and knowledge before behavior change – creating informative communication products that also acknowledge the systems that create health disparities. Additionally, Donnica and her team are committed to addressing all people inclusively and respectfully. All individuals seeing themselves represented in official messaging from the NCCDPHP is their primary goal. 

Acknowledging differences in access to health information is another major component of Donnica’s role. “Health equity is when everyone has the opportunity to be as healthy as possible. Communicators across the agency have to be committed to improving our approach to sharing information about urgent and complex health issues to everyone if we are to achieve this.” Donnica told CCI, “Knowing that there are differences in access to information as well as differences between how different groups receive information are all important considerations. Communicators need to work to effectively deliver messages in a way that audiences will connect with and digest.” 

Donnica credits FSU with giving her some valuable insight into her career path. “My residency completely changed the trajectory of my career. Growing up as a ballet dancer and surrounded by artists in a performing arts school, supporting the arts has always been a priority for me. I thought I’d use my integrated marketing communication and public relations degrees to work for an arts organization,” said Donnica. She also credits her work with the Moore Agency with helping her discover her passion for messaging that can improve people’s quality of life. 

In her free time, Donnica also serves as an alumni volunteer for Alpha Phi Omega, a service fraternity that is devoted to fostering inclusive student leadership on campuses across the country. She facilitates DEIA workshops for students, giving them the knowledge they need to be champions of diversity, and inclusivity on their own campuses. 

To read more about the work Donnica does, visit