Ikechukwu "Ike" Ogbuanu, MD, MPH, PhD
Chinelo Ogbuanu, MD, MPH
Chandra L. Jackson
Imee Cambronero - Pre-Doctoral Student, Public Health
Life’s opportunities as well as my own curiosity led me on my path to public health. I completed my undergraduate work in Biology and unlike the majority of my classmates I did not see Medical, Dentistry, or Pharmacy school in my immediate future. I shared their interest in health, yet my motivation and passion lay elsewhere. I wanted to improve the quality of health of not just individuals but of communities. I had a desire to work with populations; both in the United States and throughout the world.
Following graduation an opportunity presented itself to work in Washington D.C. on Capitol Hill. For three years I gained priceless experience in policy and politics while working for a Member of Congress. Working in the House of Representatives taught me great deal about government procedure and exposed me to topics and issues that I otherwise would have never dreamed about. I had the opportunity to have insightful discussions with community, national and international leaders; often about or related to public health.
Policy, politics, people and health lead me to return to school to pursue my Masters in Public Health. My focus is on maternal and child health as well as global health; specifically family planning and adolescent sexual health. At the moment I’ve currently got my hands in a couple projects. I recently returned from a seven-week trip to India. I traveled to areas in the north and south interviewing and filming women regarding their thoughts and views of family planning.
I am now working to capture the footage and create a documentary film. The film’s focus will describe the incentives and barriers that parents in India face when deciding whether to use family planning methods and how policy and cultural norms affect these decisions. Other topics I’m considering integrating into the film include: how family, culture and religion influence family size and how access to care and the cultural value of a women affect how maternal health services are delivered and used. I believe that media and film are powerful channels that can communicate public health messages and have the ability to reach diverse populations and demographics.
In September, I will begin a pre-doctorate fellowship with a research center at the University of Minnesota that works on projects that identify risk factors of teenage pregnancies in teens and adolescents. I will assist in the evaluation of a comprehensive sexuality education curriculum and also help with some grant writing. There is still so much to be done in our communities here at home and I believe that a collaboration between multi-disciplinary fields and culturally sensitive, scientific-based interventions are the most cost effective, sustainable ways to improve the health of populations.
Ultimately my goal is to work in the Global Health field creating and supporting public health initiatives to improve maternal and child health. Within my lifetime I hope to continue to see the decline of harmful practices such as child marriage and see an increase in access to family planning alternatives. I hope to find synergies and develop networks between elected officials, private sector contacts and educators that will influence, support and provide funding for effective public health policies.
Dinah Dafeamekpor - Student, Maternal and Child Health with a Global Health Concentration
I remember the exact moment when I first decided to study Public Health but I believe that various events in my life also unconsciously spurned an interest in this field. My birth given name is Dinah Djidjeme Dafeamekpor. And if you were wondering why the last two names are different from the first, it is because they are native Ghanaian names. I was born and raised in Ghana (West Africa) by my Ghanaian father and Ukrainian mother. Although I am of mixed race, I relate with my African heritage because I was raised in Ghana.
By the time I was 3 ½ years old, we were living in a non profit orphan establishment, SOS Children’s Village. This compelled an awareness of public service by having to participate in various community activities hosted by this organization. After finishing high school in Ghana, I moved to Georgia to study a self designed Bio/Psychology major(basically neuroscience). It is here that some of my most meaningful contributions to public health were born. I volunteered at a homeless shelter for women; Hagar’s House. I also earned a certified nursing degree at Medix Allied Health School which allowed me to work in a nursing home, a doctor’s office and the trauma unit in Atlanta Medical Center. I also traveled back to the Eastern Region of Ghana on an experiential learning scholarship. Here I engaged in several community based projects with elementary schools, orphanages and auditory and visually impaired individuals. This experience compelled me to reflect on my career choice. I had always wanted to be a doctor but now I felt that a community oriented approach to health was what I was most passionate about. My desire to study public health was based on a desire to educate disadvantaged populations extensively about women’s health issues and also provide direct care where necessary.
With this new found conviction, I packed my bags and moved to Minnesota where I am now a Maternal and Child Health student with a Global Health concentration. I spent this summer in Mobile Alabama where I had yet another thought-provoking experience. My field experience was to assess health risk behavior in low income children between the ages of 10 and 18 by recruiting and administering a 406 question survey for a longitudinal study.
Through my work as a public health professional in training, I have had the opportunity to meet many great minds in diverse areas of interest. I think the thing I like most about my experiences is being able to take fresh looks at old perspectives. A combination of my past and present experiences have nurtured me into a woman who is passionate about the need for providing nurturing environments, affording opportunities for self reliance and fulfilling the physical, mental and emotional needs of underprivileged populations globally.
On any regular day, I balance work, school, my personal and social life and I seem to be doing this pretty well despite my many responsibilities. In my spare time, I am working on opening a Minnesota Chapter of a Ghanaian based NGO dedicated to the rights of children, the Right to Rights Foundation. And I am also studying to take my MCAT to be able to study gynecology. Someday I hope to combine my degrees in a multifaceted approach to healthcare by being the chair of a women’s wellness center. I am confident that the education and experiences I am getting at the University Of Minnesota School Of Public Health are tools which will help me achieve my goals.
John Donovan - MPH Candidate – Environmental and Occupational Health
Originally, even when I was a kid, I wanted to help people. As I grew older, I gravitated towards the field of biology and eventually went to college, considering becoming an immunologist. During my time as a student in undergrad, I was also fervently passionate about the environment, politics, and serving the community. I found public health to be a perfect vehicle to pursue all of these interests. In this field, I saw that I could use my biological and social science knowledge to help others, particularly those who are less fortunate. Growing up in an underprivileged household and seeing how sometimes my mother couldn’t and still can’t afford her various medications, I realized I had to do something and public health provides this opportunity. Health shouldn’t be something we should profit off of or exploit, it is a human right.
With a Masters in Public Health, I am hoping to provide positive change in this country and abroad. Further, the future is bright for the field. Many public health issues are materializing and becoming more and more pertinent. Public health officials will have a pivotal role in stemming the tide and I relish this opportunity. I truly feel public health practitioners will have some of the loudest voices in the near future on the various issues affecting others wellbeing. Those who have a passion in helping others on a grand scale, no matter their background, should at least give public health a look; I’m glad I did.
John McElligott - Project Manager, Association of Schools of Public Health
Degree: Master of Public Health (Policy and Management) from the University of Arizona
My position with the Association of Schools of Public Health allows me to play a key role in ensuring projects vital to the current and future public health workforce operate smoothly. While my time is split between several projects, my main responsibilities are to manage the development of Doctor of Public Health competencies, oversee the ASPH/Pfizer Teaching and Practice Awards, and assist my colleagues in marketing undergraduate public health education.
Before joining the ASPH team, I worked in a more traditional public health setting. I protected the health of our youngest citizens, as part of the newborn screening program for the Arizona Department of Health Services. Newborn screening gave me a rare exposure to the intersection of statewide screening, laboratory science, neonatology, genetics, audiology, and more. I was entrusted to represent the program around the state and educate parents, healthcare providers, and the public about its benefits and processes. I also monitored data to make certain the state ran an effective, high-quality program without wasting taxpayer dollars.
The skills I used working for the state of Arizona were formally created while earning my Master of Public Health (MPH) degree. I received my MPH degree from the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health in Tucson, Arizona. Not only were the faculty excellent and supportive but my fellow classmates were a good cross-section of America and especially of the American southwest, where public health solutions can be quite different from the rest of the nation. For example, the tribal and border relationships dramatically alter the way public health officials tackle communicable or chronic diseases. Although I received a well-rounded MPH education, my emphasis was on policy and management. I chose this track because I wanted to learn how to translate evidence into practice and manage teams of professionals to improve the public’s health.
I decided to matriculate in an MPH program when I was a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer. I served as a public health educator in two nations, Côte d’Ivoire and Madagascar. I was evacuated from Côte d’Ivoire, a former French colony in West Africa, when a protracted civil war erupted and I continued to serve in Madagascar, the world’s fourth-largest island and home to lemurs, baobab trees, and cheerful people. My Peace Corps experiences demonstrated how vital public health is to sustainable development and how I could play a part in improving our world. Some of my work included routine nutrition and vaccination consultations, education to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, and managing subsidization of anti-malarial mosquito nets.
Over the years, I have been repeatedly reminded that a healthy populace can allow children to realize their dreams and societies to flourish. I am excited to be a small part of the very large and diverse field of public health. I encourage you to earn a degree in public health and join us.
Noel Mueller - Master of Public Health Nutrition candidate with a concentration in Global Health
“Let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food"... Hippocrates
In studying nutrition science and traveling to developing countries I became interested in the global food crisis … so now I’m studying public health nutrition and helping to solve global nutrition problems ranging from malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies to obesity and diabetes.
Currently pursuing a Master of Public Health Nutrition with a concentration in global health at the University of Minnesota, I understand that adequate nourishment is the most essential foundation for health and development of the community. Improved nutrition equates to stronger immune systems, less disease and better health. A healthy child learns better. A healthy person is stronger and more productive. A healthy community is more able to create opportunities and break the cycles of hunger and poverty in a sustainable way. Improved nutrition is imperative in attenuating the existing health disparities and paramount in achieving a better quality of life for all.
To work in public health today it is essential that one thinks globally; public health nutrition is no different. Worldwide we are facing the dual burden of disease: under- and overnutrition in the same household. This dual burden of overweight and malnutrition poses a significant problem to public health interventions, since addressing one may conflict with the other.
As a professional within public health nutrition I have always envisioned myself working to attenuate undernutrition and the vast array of micronutrient deficiencies; however, I now recognize that all forms of malnutrition (including those characterized by obesity and chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes) are associated with significant morbidity and mortality. I am particularly interested in working with vulnerable communities undergoing rapid nutritional life-style changes (i.e. nutrition transition). As a research assistant at the University of Minnesota I am working on a diabetes intervention for Latino youth and in my field experience a fortified cookie intervention for malnourished children in Colombia. In the future I would like to work in a global capacity as a nutritional epidemiologist for the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) or the World Health Organization (WHO).
Ellainne Valderrama, CHES - Master of Public Health Candidate, Health Promotion
I always wanted a career in the health field but was unsure of which area of expertise to pursue. I really wanted a career which would allow me to work within the community and teach individuals the importance of living a well-balanced healthy lifestyle through educational services. Therefore, I was immediately drawn to public health because of its goal to protecting and improving lives through health promotion and prevention practices. Once I earned my BS in Health Science with an emphasis in Community Health Education, I worked as a Health Educator in various public health settings serving multicultural ethnic communities ranging from adolescents to adults and implemented a variety of preventative health curriculums such as STD/HIV prevention, Type II Diabetes management, personal health and wellness, tobacco, alcohol and drugs prevention, nutrition, and stress management.
As I became more enthralled within the implementation aspects of health education programs I knew I had to sharpen my skills to fully comprehend how people’s behaviors could adversely impact their health status, which affects the health program planning process. I wanted to investigate cultural and socioeconomic issues that affect community health and health disparities. Therefore, the MPH concentration in Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences has given me an opportunity to cultivate my skills in evaluating and interpreting research findings based on behavior analysis. The research and behavioral analysis aspect of the program aims to teach students how to identify emerging public health trends and introduces methods to cope with the barriers that affect the program planning. It has also taught me how to effectively deal with unique health issues and how health behaviors can have a considerable impact on the health and well being of individuals.
Hence, the MPH program has advanced my understanding of properly applying concepts, theories, and the principles of public health practices, which are significant elements of planning health promotion and prevention services. Also, the MPH program aims to provide me with the tools necessary to advance my skills as a public health professional. Today I look forward to completing my last year of the MPH program at San Diego State University. The experiences, knowledge, and lessons that I will have acquired throughout these two years will certainly better equip me to serve the community and put forth my efforts in helping individuals learn the skills to live longer and healthier lives.
Degree: Master of Public Health student, Social and Behavioral Health, Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health
It has been a year since I started living my dream in reality and since I joined the School of Rural Public Health, Texas A&M Health Science at College Station, Texas. I earned my undergraduate degree in Cardiac Technology in India and worked there as an echocardiographer for a year before coming to Texas. The field of cardiology seemed to be a promising area but my dreams and interests led me in a different direction. I feel very lucky to have realized and chosen the path that I want to take in life. Very few people are fortunate enough to make their passion their profession. Public Health, specifically ‘Social and Behavioral Health,’ has always fascinated me and I would like to extend myself as a public health practitioner with management skills by working in this challenging and fascinating field where analytical skills, quick decisive thinking and the ability to take independent decisions are put to good use.
The reason I decided to pursue Public Health is mainly because of my experiences throughout high school and undergraduate studies. Through the four years that I spent at the medical college and hospital in India as a cardiac technology student, I saw patients going through all possible traumas, both physical and emotional. I spent time with their families and saw and felt the fear of the impending loss of their loved one and the accompanying financial burden. It was very difficult for me to see and accept the suffering of a person, then see his body undergoing changes to the administered drugs and then find the person either healed or not recovered at all. Moreover, India being a developing country, poverty played a major role in the whole process. At times it was heart breaking for me to see some people skip meals only to spend that money on the treatment of their loved ones.
I worked as a hospital administrator for three months at a medical testing center in India to gain some experience and learn how a hospital functioned. My work as a cardiac technologist and my internship has brought me to the conclusion that improving quality of life requires not only medical help but also management of health system. At the medical testing center I was also given an opportunity to plan and implement some policies for the hospital. At the same time I was fortunate enough to interact with many HIV infected people and counsel them. Since I have also completed a certificate course in HIV/AIDS & Family Education, I had a background that helped me understand their problems. I saw the fear in people’s eyes when they underwent the HIV test and waited for the results. I also volunteered at a school for the mentally challenged for a few months during my undergraduate education, teaching the children some basic skills. The bond that was created between us will always be an unforgettable part of my life.
These experiences at the medical college, medical testing center and at the school for mentally challenged individuals, and the opportunity to actually interacting with patients, their families, HIV victims and the special children, was an eye opener for me and strengthened my resolve to pursue a career in Public Health. A degree in Public Health was necessary to broaden my perspective and understanding about certain diseases and mental health issues, as well as health behaviors. The graduate program to me serves as a tool to learn the skills, knowledge and technical know-how required for a career in Public Health that will further enable me to develop, plan, implement and evaluate the delivery of healthcare services. It also will help me analyze the political and social factors that affect economic policies in the healthcare industry at national and international levels. In the future, I would like to work with UNICEF or UNAIDS as a health behaviorist to promote the health of the nation’s children. And even if I make positive changes in one person’s life, I will consider my existence justified.
"Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each one of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet seeming to divine a purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: that we are here for the sake of others…above all, for those upon whose smile and well-being our own happiness depends, and also for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by the bond of sympathy. Many times a day I realize how much my own inner and outer life is built upon the labors of my fellow human beings, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received and am still receiving."
ALBERT EINSTEIN, Living Philosophies
Ikechukwu "Ike" Ogbuanu, MD, MPH, PhD
Growing up in Africa, I was constantly surrounded by the triad of poverty, ignorance, and disease. I am no stranger to the negative impacts of disease in today’s society, and I have suffered my own share of disability and neglect. Those personal experiences have contributed to bringing me to this point in my career. My determination to make a difference in the health field first started in my early childhood as a game, part of my repertoire of elaborate role-plays and childhood amusements. An imaginary stethoscope, a sick doll, and a “syringe” all sufficed to make the practice of medicine real in my imagination. It was, therefore, no surprise to my family and friends when I chose medicine as a career.
Nevertheless, as a physician practicing among disadvantaged communities in Nigeria, it soon became clear to me how limited my impact was, just treating patients one at a time. The infants who left the hospital smiling soon came back with another bout of malaria, or a new attack of acute gastroenteritis or sometimes in anemic heart failure. At the population level, my skills as a physician were very limited in realizing my life-long dream of making a real difference. This was the beginning of my interest in Public Health.
I have consistently maintained and cherished two core beliefs throughout my medical and public health career: first, that all human beings, irrespective of nationality or creed are capable of living fully healthy lives replete with dignity and love, if given the opportunity; and secondly, that social justice is a foundation for public health. As a medical epidemiologist, I am highly motivated to contribute to the reduction of human suffering in its various forms in any part of the world. My greatest passion is for international health. I believe my public health training in research and practice will equip me with the systematic and rigorous skills necessary to fulfill this life goal.
I completed my master of public health degree in 2006 and I am currently working on my dissertation for the PhD in Epidemiology and Biostatistics, both at the University of South Carolina. Although my training up to this point has focused on analytical epidemiology and academic public health, at this juncture in my career, I have decided to prepare myself for a career in applied public health. I am convinced that a career as a medical epidemiologist will more strategically place me in a position to make my contribution to knowledge and practice that will ameliorate the impact of disease and disability globally.
I believe that training in the field application of my previous research skills, in combination with my previous clinical and academic public health skills, will strategically position me to fulfill my passion for changing the health and well being of the disadvantaged people I will be privileged to serve. I hope to both expand and focus my responsibilities as a public health practitioner, locally and internationally. My goal is to take up a higher responsibility in applied public health in international health, in organizations such as the CDC, the WHO, the World Bank, UNAIDS and other non-profit organizations. Such a career path will enable me to use the skills I have acquired up to this point to impact the lives of the millions of people in developing nations who are constantly “at risk of health risks” and who lack the resources to help themselves.
Mike Roman - MPH and PhD Candidate, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health
The Peace Corps was not something I thought of, much less knew about, before my junior year in college. Many of my fellow Volunteers told me that joining the Peace Corps had been a long-time dream of theirs. They told me about commercials they’d remember seeing on TV and how they knew that they were destined to become Peace Corps Volunteers. I must have missed all those commercials because I just stumbled across the Peace Corps at a local town fair with one of my friends. We were looking for the main stage when we came upon a Peace Corps table. The returned volunteer working the table told me about his experience and I was hooked! The biggest draw of the returned Volunteer’s story wasn’t the travel or the adventure but the idea of serving others for two years. I had found what I wanted to do after college and unbeknownst to me, what I wanted to do for the rest of my life!
I arrived in one of the world’s smallest nations during the fall of 2000 expecting to experience life as I had never imagined before. I was an elementary school volunteer with a degree from Miami University which was of little use to me as it decorated one of my parent’s living room shelves back in Ohio, on the other side of the world. To me education was an important part of life, but leaving the place where I could easily utilize its value, proved to be more of an education than any class had provided me.
By then antiretroviral treatment had been made available to people living with HIV/AIDS for a long time in the United States, but not where I had found myself. Where I was, continuous electricity and potable running water were available to me only in memory, or on movies occasionally run by rented generators in the village meeting area. After a year of service I went to the main island hospital with one of my relatives to visit a relative who was sick. She ended up passing away soon after our initial visit from what we think might have been lung cancer brought on by years of smoking cigarettes. On that visit I saw another relative. He was a young man, my age at the time and had been in the hospital for some time. He was skinny and in a wheelchair. I went to say something to him and immediately felt my arm being pulled away from him as my host cousin yanked me away saying quietly. “He has AIDS.” Not wanting to cause a scene I turned and quietly walked out of the hospital with him.
This wasn’t the first time that I had experienced public discrimination towards people living with AIDS in the islands, but it did represent a defining moment for me in my journey to working in the international public health arena. I continued to work with HIV/AIDS awareness programs throughout my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I returned to the country two years after the end of my service to volunteer with the National HIV/AIDS Taskforce for 3 months in conjunction with my first masters’ degree. Today I continue to work with the country on my PhD and MPH research. What I have gathered from these years of experience is that education does not exist only within the classroom and that if we as public health students are to work with communities, we have to be willing to step back into the student position when we go out into the field to try and make an impact.
As a girl, I read James Herriot’s novels about the life of a rural veterinarian. What I took away from them was as much a desire to heal animals as a need to serve my community. During my undergraduate training at William & Mary, I realized that my community need not be a local one—that indeed, veterinarians who work in public health serve both animal and human populations globally.
I spent the summer before my senior year of college volunteering with Heifer International (HI) in Honduras. I lived with a family in the highlands, helping them take care of their heifer, bull, goats, and chickens. These animals helped improve the nutrition and health of the families who raised them. I followed the head of the family as he worked as HI’s point person for the communities’ small animal ventures, assisting with husbandry and health issues. HI had trained him, and now he was passing along the knowledge to his community.
I learned more about husbandry, health, and medicine during my subsequent veterinary training at UC Davis, but I never forgot the lesson of Heifer International: to pass along the gift. I spent seven years doing just that, working first as a rural veterinarian on farms and later as a small animal/exotics practitioner in a progressive urban practice. I loved the connections I built with my community, and I enjoyed practicing medicine. But at the same time, I knew veterinarians were in short supply in public health—I had done special training during vet school for public health, including externships at the Centers for Disease Control and Plum Island’s foreign animal disease laboratory.
Veterinarians in public health often are collaborators working at the cross-roads of many fields, from medicine and population health to food safety and outbreak investigation to zoonotic disease surveillance and research. This “one medicine” approach places public health veterinarians in positions from government, academia, and NGOs to industry and consulting.
Last year, I earned an MPH at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and this year, I’ve started my PhD training in Environmental Health. I’m exploring occupational health risks for farmers, the agricultural origins of disease, and the environmental spread of antimicrobial resistance. My perspective as someone who has worked with farmers and on farms helps ground my research. Once I graduate, I plan to enter public health practice with the eventual goal of returning to academia to teach. To pass along the gift.
Chinelo Ogbuanu, MD, MPH
My interest in Public Health dates back to my years in medical school, where I developed a special interest and excelled in Community Medicine among other courses. In 1997, as part of the fulfillment of the requirements for this course, I collaborated with two colleagues to conduct research on the causes of maternal mortality over an eight year period (1990–1997) at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu. For this study we manually abstracted information from paper-based medical records. We had a difficult time retrieving the records since many were either missing or unavailable. We painstakingly retrieved about 50% of the records which we used for our study.
Later in my medical career, as a practicing physician in a secondary-level health center, my love for public health practice could not be hidden. I emerged as the informal leader of the department of medicine, and ensured that appointments were properly scheduled for patients with chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and tuberculosis. I also ensured that no patient was unnecessarily delayed in the wards and outpatient clinics. In spite of the obvious constraints to effective public health practice in this third-world setting, I successfully rose above the challenges.
In 2004, as the coordinator of a free one-month diabetic screening clinic sponsored by a non-profit organization in Nigeria, I ensured that accurate data (demographic information, blood sugar test results, etc) were collected for every individual screened (1,116 individuals). Even though the data collection process itself may not have been valued by the organizing agency, I knew that the exercise would generate a rich source of data on diabetes, which if properly utilized, could help in describing the distribution of diabetes in that region and in developing sound policies to effectively control the disease in Nigeria.
These experiences led me to seek postgraduate training in public health. I came to the United States in 2004 as a World Bank Scholar for a Masters in Public Health in the Department of Health Services Policy and Management, University of South Carolina. The masters program exposed me to the health care system in the US – what works and what doesn’t and solutions that were being proffered. After obtaining my masters degree in 2006, I immediately began the doctoral program. During my doctoral program, I have been involved in a lot of research on breastfeeding, HIV/AIDS, cervical cancer/HPV, community preparedness against new and emerging infectious diseases, and tuberculosis. I am currently working on my doctoral dissertation, looking at maternity leave length, employment status, other job benefits and their impact on breastfeeding.
I have had the opportunity of presenting the results of my research at several conferences (regional and national) and I am working on several publications based for submission to peer-reviewed journals.
Upon graduation from the program, I plan to pursue a career in public health policy and practice with a local public health organization (such as the CDC), or an international organization (such as the WHO, World Bank or UNICEF). Ultimately, if given the opportunity, I would love to serve as the minister of health for my country Nigeria, where I will use the knowledge and skills I have acquired to bring lasting change to the myriad health problems in Nigeria.
Allison Shelton - MHSA candidate, University of Michigan School of Public Health
My interest in the healthcare field developed during my high school years. I volunteered at a local hospital four hours a week and as an intern in a dentist and a pediatrician’s office.
My college studies focused on my career aspiration of providing quality healthcare to those in greatest need. Initially, my coursework and internships were driven by my desire to practice as a physician in an urban environment. However, during the summer prior to my senior year of college, I participated in a healthcare study abroad program in London. My research in the program focused on comparing private and public healthcare systems in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Through my studies and internship in the program, I was able to analyze what constitutes quality healthcare from a different perspective. I realized the impact of health policy and effective management on the quality of health services rendered. As a result, after graduation, I obtained a position pertinent to healthcare administration. My position allowed me to view various aspects of how a hospital is managed and the implications of fiscal decisions. My work within public and private healthcare environments has confirmed my passion for continuing my studies to enable me to obtain a leadership role within healthcare management. I know that obtaining a Masters in the healthcare field will enable me to reach my professional goals and highest potential to better serve the community.
Chandra L. Jackson
I walked in the 32-year old Haitian male AIDS patient’s door at Jackson Memorial Hospital as a participant of an internship with a team of healthcare providers and a translator during routine morning rounds. The head physician, an internist, diagnosed the patient with a low T-cell count and dementia, checked his ulcers, performed other routine procedures, and suggested that he stay another day for testing. The patient refused! She was shocked by his passive attitude and blamed social enigmas for his health condition. I was intrigued because I have always been innately interested and passionate about improving social issues that negatively affect health.
This experience at the University of Miami School of Medicine made me realize that I can address barriers to health from a global perspective, and that I am not limited to becoming a physician solely practicing medicine. This was a profound realization because, as a first generation college graduate from Atlanta, Georgia, I always knew that I wanted to dedicate my life’s work to improving the health of the traditionally underserved. I recognized that a career in public health was the perfect opportunity to help prevent disease and protect health in entire populations instead of person by person.
While exploring potential careers, I worked in a laboratory investigating the beneficial effects of aspirin on chronic diseases at Bethune-Cookman University. Realizing that I wanted to focus on eradicating health issues on a macro-level, I became an intern at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the Department of Epidemiology during the summer of 2003. Continuing to study in the Department of Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins through a post-baccalaureate program gave me a true sense of fulfillment; this was officially the career for me! Through this program, I gained practical public health experience in the field of my interest- obesity and type 2 diabetes health disparities. I was a research assistant for Project Sugar 2, a randomized controlled trial of primary care and community-based interventions in Baltimore City. The study was designed to improve metabolic outcomes and reduce the risk of adverse health events in a sample of African Americans (AA) with type 2 diabetes. In this position, I have published several manuscripts, presented at national conferences, and participated in journal clubs to become more knowledgeable about the field.
I then decided to pursue a Master’s degree in Epidemiology at Harvard. After graduation, I returned to Johns Hopkins and am currently training in Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology as a Doctor of Philosophy candidate. My career objectives are relatively simple. I plan to remain in academia, and use my skills to evaluate and establish innovative methods to reduce health disparities associated with obesity and type 2 diabetes in urban communities. Although I am interested in US populations, I have gained experience addressing global health disparities in India, Ghana, Chile, Japan, and Australia. Ultimately, my graduate studies and experiences have helped to materialize my desire to become an indispensable member of a research team that aids in eliminating health disparities and improving the public’s health.
As a second-year MPH student at Drexel University, I am leading research to help raise awareness and education about asthma and diabetes within the City of Philadelphia’s African-American community. Working with the 52nd Street Business Association and the STEPS for a Better Philadelphia program, I spent a significant amount of time during my first year of studies creating health literature about asthma and diabetes, and holding discussions about preventing these diseases alongside community members at local barber shops, beauty salons and schools in African-American communities.
I plan on pursuing a career in medicine, but I first wanted to take a broader look at healthcare. Experiencing public health will help me to make an impact on the health of not just one person at a time, but on an entire community, and make me a more effective healthcare professional.
In fact, my desire to take a broader look at healthcare led to my first overseas trip. Last year, I spent a week volunteering at the Nuestra Señora de Fátima Elementary School in Cartago, Costa Rica, painting classrooms and playing with children in the impoverished city. I also visited a number of shantytowns close to the school in a region known as Los Diques.
It was a very eye-opening experience. Many of the children experience different forms of trauma, and the school is their only source of support. The volunteer experience allowed me to get a different perspective on vulnerable communities and apply first-hand what I have learned at the School of Public Health. It also allowed me to practice cross-cultural solutions and become a real advocate for helping others.
Londa Vanderwal - PhD candidate in Occupational and Environmental Health, University of Iowa College of Public Health
I was planning to eventually return to the U.S. to pursue a PhD in Food Microbiology, or possibly in International Development. However, through my travels with FAO to many developing countries, as well as discussions with international development experts, I realized that the field of study that would best provide me with the tools and information needed for my desired future work was Public Health.
This realization led me to pursue a PhD in Occupational and Environmental Health, with an emphasis in Agricultural Health and Safety, at the University of Iowa. Because of my experiences living and working in Africa, and my personal interest in improving agricultural productivity and the health of farmers, I decided to conduct my dissertation research with farmers in the Gambia, West Africa. As I write this, I am in the Gambia, working with women vegetable farmers in a small village to improve their health, safety and productivity. We discussed their most time consuming and painful tasks, the tools that they use for those tasks, and suggestions they had to improve those tasks. The women agreed to test some improved hoes for land preparation, water pumps for lifting water (currently they lift water from their deep wells with a bucket tied to a rope), and plastic crates for carrying vegetables, all of which were locally available.
The women have greatly appreciated these tools as they have reduced their discomfort, injury risk, and time required for the various tasks. The tools have also improved the quality of their work and their garden produce. Other women farmers will also be able use these tools after the study concludes as the interventions can all be made or purchased in the Gambia, at relatively reasonable prices. Conducting research in the Gambia has been incredibly rewarding! The women are always so happy when I come to the garden because of my interest in improving their health and productivity, and we usually end up singing and dancing together.
During my time in the Gambia, I have also been teaching in the School of Public Health at the Gambia College, where we are trying to prepare these young people for the many challenges that public health officers in such developing countries will face in improving the health of their nation. I have also been working with FAO- funded projects in the Gambia and Malawi that deal with improving food safety, animal and plant health in these countries. After graduating, I hope to continue working in developing countries in Africa, teaching and conducting research in public health and working with other public health and agricultural projects, to improve the lives and productivity of farmers, and thus all consumers around the world.