Profiles

The Boston College Global Public Health and the Common Good community is comprised of faculty, students and staff who bring their unique experiences to the program. Find out more about their experiences and research below!

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Samantha Fisher

Data Analyst, Schiller Institute for Integrated Science and Society

April 5, 2019

How did you get into the field of public health?
I was introduced to the field of public health by one of my undergraduate professors at Holy Names University in Oakland, California. I worked with her on a project studying salmonella, and have been interested in the field ever since. I moved to New York to pursue my Masters of Public Health at New York University and decided to do a concentration in Epidemiology. My master’s thesis focused on lead and its effects on human health. After finishing my Master’s, I worked in a lab that studied Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and non-fatal overdose in populations of current and former substance users in New York City. I also worked with the non-profit Center on Addiction at which my main project involved implementing integrated health care models into opioid treatment programs across New York state before moving to Boston to join the Global Public Health program.


Tell us about a research project that you're working on. 
I am currently working on a project for the Schiller Institute for Integrated Science and Society studying air pollution in India. The purpose of the project is to assess the effects of air pollution on burden of disease, human capital and the economy, both on the national and state level.
 
What do you think is the most pressing issue in global public health?
There are several pressing global health issues, but one that currently comes to mind is air pollution. It is an issue that affects so many communities on a global scale and there is a large disease burden attributable to air pollution. It is associated with a number of health issues ranging from cardiovascular and pulmonary disease to loss of cognitive function.
 
Combustion related air pollutants are also a major driver of climate change, which is accompanied by its own set of health effects such as extreme weather, water and food insecurity and disease. These issues also tend to disproportionately affect individuals in low and middle-income countries. Reduction of air pollution globally can lead to improvements in health both directly and through climate change mitigation.
 
What do you enjoy most about the BC community?
So far what I like most about the BC community is how kind and welcoming everyone has been. It’s been a great experience getting to meet and work with new people.

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Tracy Regan

Associate Professor of the Practice, Department of Economics

March 15, 2019

As an economist, what interests you about public health? 
The health care industry fascinates (and often frustrates) me because there are so many parties, often with competing interests and different incentives. The markets that we often teach in introductory economics courses involve a buyer and a seller, and likely an intermediary that helps to ease the transaction.  However, in health care a single transaction can involve a patient, physician, pharmacist, health insurer, and the government!

Tell us about a research project that you're working on.
 I'm currently working with a former graduate student from BC on a project that investigates the effect of pseudo-mature behaviors (PMBs) on early adult outcomes. PMBs include (excessive) drinking, (cigarette and marijuana) smoking, and sexual activity during high school. We are investigating whether any of these behaviors have an affect, positive or negative, on completed schooling, labor market earnings, and stability of romantic relationships.  We are coupling this relationship with a student's social identity that forms during school as well.  This is measured by his/her participation in school activities like sports, student government, honor societies, etc.

What do you think is the most pressing issue in global public health?
Wow, there are so many!  I think the U.S. needs to work on improving the Affordable Care Act rather than trying to chip away at its foundation in the current administration's attempts to see it fail.  Globally, I think we should be concerned about the environment, potable water, and (healthy!) food security.

What do you enjoy most about the BC community?
There are so many things I like about BC!  College is such a special time in people's lives and I feel incredibly lucky to be involved in this formative and exciting time.  When I arrived at BC, and in Boston, I was so impressed by the amount of pride people have and the warm welcomes I received.  Students seem genuinely grateful and happy to be at BC and whenever I meet an alumni I am told about how much he/she loved BC and how they feel "home" when they return to campus.  We've got a great administration and I've met some exceptional colleagues that I now consider friends.  And the best part, of course, is the students--they are some of the brightest, most hardworking, and polite that I've had the good fortune of teaching in my career...and they've got great personalities as well!  I really enjoy the opportunity to get to know my students--they are so impressive, and a lot of fun as well.  This generation gives me a lot of hope for the future. 

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Cassie Ryan

Clinical Assistant Professor, Connell School of Nursing

February 15, 2019

As an epidemiologist and nurse, what interests you about public health?
I started in nursing at the bedside, but that was about medical care.  My nursing career ended as the PI for a HRSA grant for outreach to community organizations and community health care providers on the follow up children identified on newborn screening with hemoglobinopathies.   For me, public health integrates my decades of nursing experience, my MPH in Maternal-Child Health, my health services research PhD work, and my interest in health policy.    I have turned my foci to social policy and population health.

Tell us about a research project that you're working on.
My background is health services research.  HSR looks at health care from the perspectives of access, utilization, casts, and outcomes.   While HSR has a focus on medical care I went for an alternative angle and had a dissertation on access to bike share for low income Bostonians through primary care.  The program was a bit of a fail, mostly related to the setting and EHR change.  I think it could work elsewhere, and I learned lots about transportation equity (or the lack thereof).  After that, most of my non teaching work was about evaluating pedagogical methods. I am on the clinical track with a focus on practice.  I don't have a current nursing position.  I have spent years in a variety of service/volunteer projects.  This grew out of my own Jesuit education at Holy Cross, where I was a volunteer in the school's Special Projects for Urban Development from freshmen year.  I ended up volunteering in hospital inpatient playrooms  at UMass Med Center in Worcester, Boston City Hospital, and a residential and respite program for infants and children with congenital HIV.  These experiences are why I decided to become a nurse after graduation.  I spent 21 years as a volunteer nurse at a camp for children with cancer, blood diseases, and other life threatening conditions in Connecticut.  I retired from that two years ago My current service activities are  public health as they relate to social determinants, much of my passion is about hunger and homelessness.  I have been a long time member of a local organization, Boston Cares.  It's like a clearinghouse for volunteer opportunities as one time events.  It's a great way to try out different volunteer placements to decide where you want to land.  I have been all over the citys serving meals, sorting donations, cleaning out storage at a cat shelter, and carrying bags from a food pantry. 

What do you think is the most pressing issue in global public health? 
Hunger and food insecurity. Food, clothing, and shelter are the most basic human needs.  To me, food is a fundamental right.   It's horrifying to consider how much food is wasted, especially in highly developed nations like the US, when we have global and domestic hunger.  Food waste is also an environmental hazard.   The problem can be tackled on the policy, community, organizational, and individual levels.  I have been thinking more about these approaches as we will cover in my current course, Contemporary Issues in Public Health. This afternoon, I will contact two local businesses to see if they have leftover food from catered lunch.  If the answer is yes, I'll pick it up and walk the food over to a local rescue mission.  This organization has in house meals and weekend outreach with food to homeless individuals.  The program is run by the Massachusetts chapter of Rescuing Leftover Cuisine.  This is separate from Boston Cares.  It's only my second assignment with them.

What do you enjoy most about the BC community? OR What makes you excited about the public health program at BC?
It's only been a few weeks, and I can now find my classroom building on the first try.  My current student roster shows the interdisciplinary nature of the program-  MCAS, CSON, Lynch, and Carroll.  I have been learning more about their own interests within public health, and there is quite a range of global and domestic interest areas. Consistent with the BC mission, most of their interests have a social justice angle.  I am looking forward to this semester, and learning more about what's going on across the campus.

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Geetanjali Vij ('20)

Graduate Assistant, Global Public Health Program

January 18, 2019

How did you get involved with Global Public Health?
As a student if Psychology, I have always recognized mental health as being a critical global public health issue, though that is not always a commonly recognized perception. The opioid crisis, gun violence and many other public health issues have a strong correlation to mental health disparities in the US and the world. Despite not being a student of global public health, I have found it to be a critical component of my education and professional experience.

Tell us about a research project that you're working on. 
I am currently working on a study in the Lynch School of Education surveying the impact of experiences of racism and xenophobia on health and mental health of immigrant populations in the United States.

What do you think is the most pressing issue in global public health?  
I believe the greatest issue in global public health is the disparity in resources between nations and populations based on socioeconomic status, race and gender. This is very much present in the Mental Health Counseling field and continues to contribute significantly the well-being of individuals and communities. 

What do you enjoy most about the BC community?
In the past few months I have had the privilege of meeting many Boston College faculty, staff and student community. Everyone I have met has been dedicated to fostering a collaborative and supportive environment. I am excited to be a part of this community and work across the disciplines.

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Mary Ashley Keene ('19)

BC Alumna

November 9, 2018

Mary Ashley Keene is a recent graduate of Boston College ('19). She completed all three courses as part of the Global Public Health program. Find out more about her post-graduate life below!

Why did you decide to take a job in healthcareconsulting?

So as I got to the end of senior year I knew that I wanted to pursue the healthcare field further.  I also knew that this would probably lead me back to graduate school at some point, but that I didn't know what that looked like yet. After talking to my professors about how best to expose myself to different facets of the field to try and determine what that future step would look like, I started looking more at the consulting field.  Ultimately, the deciding factor was the opportunity to see many sides to the industry and give myself time to discover more of my passions.  

How did the global public health courses help you develop a public health lens? Does this influence your job?
I took the first course in the fall of my Junior year and immediately noticed a difference in the way I approached the outside world and my other courses within my Biology major. After completing the sequence and looking at global questions in my capstone and thesis seminar senior year, the public health lens allowed me to have a completely new perspective on common events.  I think one of the greatest advantages to the courses is the attention that they give to everyday current events (shoutout to "This is Public Health").  Being able to look at weekly news articles and digest them as a class really enabled me to apply that mindset outside of the classroom as opposed to only recognizing major events that hit the breaking news cycle.  

This lens heavily influences my job if only because of my heightened attention to detail and recognition of compounding factors.  My job asks me to look at one problem or circumstance from many different angles and ask how many organizations and legislative bodies can affect one decision- much like how public health is dependent on multiple aspects and levels within the community.  

What does a typical week look like balancing work and personal life?
I have been really fortunate to have a job that allows me to have a very stable work-life balance and a boss that encourages that.  It does take some initiative, however, to not just sit around when I get home from work and let that be the only thing I do for the day.  I have more recently been trying to incorporate some of the things I loved to do at school into my post-grad life.  For example, I joined an intramural team that has games on Monday nights and a small group that meets on Tuesday nights, which I feel gives me some structure to my weeks and also allows for a lot of flexibility the other days. 

How has your perspective on public health changed since starting your new job?
I think I have become more aware of the difficulties in creating policy and coordinating the different spheres. I often work on projects regarding a new therapy or device that has been developed and my clients are looking to understand how insurance companies will respond (i.e. what is the Medicare/Medicaid policy in this sector), will the FDA approve it, and will physicians use it? All of these questions are extremely relevant to health access to better understand how and why things are covered, what policy is enacted, and what is available to whom.   

What would you say to current students taking public health courses at BC?
Talk to your professors! The professors who teach the sequence are some of the most engaging and involved professors I had at BC.  They are not only incredibly knowledgeable on what they are teaching about they are also actively putting those concepts into practice in the Greater Boston community! I found it extremely helpful to bring up a topic that had particularly interested me and have them suggest an organization in the area to look into- it helped reinforce those concepts even further! Also, I would say to really push yourself to ask similar questions outside of your Public Health courses in other coursework and see how much overlap there is- you will be amazed! Finally, get involved.  Something I regret was not engaging further with some of the local groups- especially the partner organizations for the 3rd course- Public Health Practice in the Community- those connections are already made and they really provide an avenue to launch something long term.

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Lily Appuligiese ('18)

BC Alumna

October 19, 2018

Why did you decide to pursue an MPH (Master's in Public Health)?
I decided to pursue an MPH because the values of public health closely align with my personal and professional goals.  I was drawn in by the opportunity to help people and improve quality of life on a systems level in order to improve the health of entire populations.  At BUSPH I am pursuing a concentration in Healthcare Management with the goal of someday being a Nursing Home Administrator.  I plan to use the skills I learn in my MPH program to protect not only the physical health of elderly nursing home residents, but also their mental and emotional health.  Much of public health is focused on prevention, which is something I believe is very important in making a lasting improvement on the overall well-being of a population.  I view health as more than just the absence of disease and I chose a career in public health in order to make good health a reality for more people.  

How did the global public health courses help you develop a public health lens? Has this helped you in any way in your program?
The global public health courses at BC are very similar to and prepared me very well for the courses I am taking in my first semester at BUSPH.  The Introduction to Global Public Health course had an immense impact on my time at BC.  Prior to taking the course, I had never heard of public health and did not realize all of the ways public health affected my everyday life.  When I took the introductory course, it was still my intention to go to medical school to be a physician.  However, upon completing the course I realized that public health was a better fit for me.  The next two courses in the sequence introduced me to even more public health issues and careers opportunities.  Thanks to the public health classes and professors at BC I entered graduate school extremely well prepared to succeed as a public health professional.

What would you say to a student in the Public Health courses at BC?
The public health courses at BC are an excellent stepping stone to internships and jobs in many sectors.  I held two public-health-related summer internships and the knowledge and experience I gained from the courses at BC were instrumental in landing both positions.  Also, be sure to take advantage of your professors and their expertise.  The professors that teach in the public health sequence come from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences that are representative of the many different fields that hire public health students.  Finally, use your time and your courses at BC to reflect on how you define public health and what that might mean to the decisions and plans you make for your post-BC life.

What course are you most excited about at the moment?
This semester, I am most excited about a course called "Health Policy, Law, and Systems." I am learning the basics of the U.S. legal and healthcare systems and how they interact with one another to influence the work of public health professionals in all sectors.  I have always been interested in law and I am excited for the opportunity to learn how to read cases and write legal analyses in this course.  This is a side of public health work that I think is often overlooked but is equally as interesting and important to achieving broad public health goals.  So far, I have explored the legal basis for many common public health interventions, such as the fluoridation of public drinking water. I am excited to see where this course goes and to have a more complete understanding of the many obstacles public health professionals face in improving the health of populations.

Phil Landrigan

Phil Landrigan ('63)

Director, Schiller Institute for Intergrated Science and Society

October 5, 2018

How did you get into the field of public health?
I got into public health in July, 1970 right after my residency in Pediatrics at Boston Children's Hospital when I joined the Centers for Disease Control (the CDC) in Atlanta as an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer. I went to CDC intending to stay for only 2 years, but I liked the work so much that I stayed for 15 years.  This included overseas tours in Nigeria, El Salvador and the Western Pacific as well as a year in graduate school at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

Tell us about a research project that you're working on. 
My biggest current research project is starting up the Global Observatory on Pollution and Health at BC. The mission of the Observatory is to analyze, archive and disseminate data on pollution and pollution-related disease in cities and countries around the world.  It will build on the work of the recently published Lancet Commission on Pollution & Health. The Observatory will make  its findings widely available to researchers, policy makers, civil society, the media and the global public. The intent is that these data will  guide research; help close gaps in knowledge about pollution and its health effects; inform the development of public policy; educate civil society and the media; and assist cities and countries to identify their worst forms of pollution, prioritize interventions, and track progress toward pollution control.  The Observatory is based on a partnership between the Schiller Institute for Integrated Science and Society at Boston College and the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

What do you think is the most pressing issue in global public health?  
The biggest issue today in global public health is the enormous inequity in wealth, resources and power that exists between the rich nations and the poor nations and between the rich and the poor in all countries.  Profound differences in resources underlie virtually all other problems in public health and explain differences in health status, in the distribution of diseases such as HIV/AIDS,  in the global distribution of pollution and pollution-related diseases, and in access to medical care.

What do you enjoy most about the BC community?
I love the combination of intellectual intensity and concern for social justice that marks the students and faculty at Boston College and is a direct expression of BC's Jesuit, Catholic heritage.  And on a personal level, I am thrilled to come home to this great university from which I graduated 55 years ago and that has given so much to me and to my family.