Dr. Amelia Burke-Garcia is an award-winning digital health communicator and researcher with more than 15 years of experience creating innovative and impactful digital interventions for public health initiatives. Currently, she runs Westat’s Center for Digital Strategy and Research and leads numerous influencer-focused efforts on behalf of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Dr. Burke-Garcia has been singularly examining the role of influencers in health communication and research efforts for more than a decade, including the role of payment in this space. Dr. Burke-Garcia began her work with influencers in 2006 when she worked for Horizon Media. During this time, she led what was then called Organic Marketing and used fledgling networks of influencers to promote products and brands. After 2 years of working in the private sector, Dr. Burke-Garcia came back to public health and ran the first-ever Tweet-a-Thon with online mommy influencers to promote adolescent vaccination. Since then, she has led CDC’s National Influenza Vaccination Campaign, which utilized celebrity influencers such NFL Hall of Fame players, Carl Eller and Barry Sanders, as well as everyday influencers such as mommy bloggers, Pregnant Chicken and Beer and Babies, to promote and encourage seasonal flu vaccinations. She has continued to lead the field in this area with her current contract to support CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD), which is building an influencer platform to disseminate their health messages.
During this time, Dr. Burke-Garcia also finished her dissertation, which examined online influencers as opinion leaders for health information dissemination, the findings from which concluded that the online influencer space has undergone a major shift in recent years, turning from what was once a more informal space for content and idea sharing to what is now a more organized—and monetized—marketing channel. As well, her dissertation research found that while monetization is an important part of this world, not all influencers require payment for engaging in health-related campaigns and that trust and credibility play important and symbiotic roles in the relationship between an influencer and his/her followers and the brands and campaigns that influencer chooses to partner with.
Dr. Burke-Garcia has published findings from numerous studies related to influencers and she continues to extend this line of research as evinced by her NIH-funded study looking at mommy bloggers as endorsers of breast cancer prevention information. She also currently leads a study funded by the Food and Drug Administration examining online influencers as endorsers of prescriptions medications. Other professional experience includes her work at international nonprofits, AED, and Management Sciences for Health. She is the author of the S.O.C.I.A.L. framework for planning and evaluating digital media campaigns, writes the Socialibriumm Experiment blog, and has been published in numerous journals and books. She received a 2014 Social Media Icon Award from PR News Group. She has her undergraduate degree from McGill University, her master’s degree from Georgetown University, and her Ph.D. in Communication from George Mason University.