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Global Public Health

Faculty Profile: Joyce Edmonds, PhD, MPH, RN

Associate Professor, William F. Connell School of Nursing

Courses: NURS1210 Public Health in a Global Society (Fall); NURS3210 Contemporary Issues in Public Health (Spring)

1. How did you get into the field of public health?

In nursing school, I was much more interested in health promotion, risk reduction and disease prevention than treatment and rehabilitation from illness. While I valued my clinical training in acute care hospitals, my training and experiences in public health departments focused on programming and policy, which were more aligned with my interests and values. After an internship with the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, I entered graduate school for my MPH at Oregon Health Science University. At the time, the Oregon Health Plan, Physician Assisted Suicide and Medical Marijuana were progressive polices that the state of Oregon was pursing, creating an interesting context for my studies in public health. After my MPH, I worked at Multnomah County Health Department and for the Oregon Health Division (the state public health agency) in maternal and child health.

2. Tell us about a research project that you’re working on?

I am currently working on exploring the impact that healthcare providers have on the cesarean delivery rates. Cesarean delivery is the most common major surgery performed in the US and substantial variation in rates among hospitals suggests potential overuse contributing to both perinatal morbidity and billions in excess spending annually. Specifically, I am interested in the relationship between labor and delivery nurse practice and the safe prevention of primary cesarean rates.

3. What do you think is the most pressing issue in global public health?

I think the most pressing issue in global public health is inequities. The concept of health equity has been described as differences in health care that are unnecessary, unfair, unjust, and avoidable. There are vast and significant inequities both between and within countries. Maternal mortality rates between high and low income countries as well as between black and white women within the US is just one example of an enduring and tragic consequence of socio-economic and gender inequity.

4. What do you enjoy most about the BC community?

I enjoy both the commitment to academic excellence and shared values- including the devotion to social justice. After my morning commute, listening to national news on NPR, I am grateful to enter the BC community, a place that reflects on issues facing our world in a critical and humanistic manner. Not to mention, the intelligent, passionate, engaging undergraduate students that I have the pleasure of interacting with every day!


Student Profile: Ashley Antwi

BC 2017 graduate in Psychology (Clinical Concentration) and minor in Sociology who took Courses 1 and 2 in the Global Public Health sequence. Ashley is a first year student in Behavioral Sciences and Health Education at Emory University Rollins School of Public Health.

1. What is the current research project that you're conducting?
I’m currently conducting qualitative research for my BSHE 538: Qualitative Research Methods course. The purpose of my qualitative study is to describe the perceptions of emergency contraceptive pills among first-generation West African-American undergraduate women. *First-generation West African is defined as having at least one parent born in West Africa, for the purposes of this study. I’m soliciting BC undergrad volunteers, so please be in touch! Interviews will last approximately 30-45 minutes and can be conducted over the phone. If you have any questions or are interested, please email me:

2. Why did you decide to pursue an MPH?
I have always been passionate about medicine, wellness, education, and advocacy. Throughout my different experiences and courses at BC, I realized that public health would be the perfect fit for me because it's such an interdisciplinary field. I really loved and enjoyed my clinical and abnormal psychology courses and believe they taught me how to think critically as a researcher, while still maintaining the sensitivity and empathy necessary to work directly with vulnerable populations. In terms of where I wanted to go with my career, I knew deep down that I'd want to be able to somehow connect my knowledge of both the microsociological nature of human interaction with the macrosocial determinants of health.

Healthcare is such a broad, multi-layered, and multi-pronged system. Knowing that I wanted to be able to improve access, availability, and affordability of healthcare for marginalized and underserved populations, I thought pursuing a public health degree would afford me the opportunity to network and gain the skills I needed to do just that! It wasn't an easy decision for me, given that I was also actively looking to apply to doctoral programs for counseling psychology and clinical psychology master's programs. I think taking "Contemporary Issues in Public Health" (Course 2) helped to cement my decision and make my vision more clear in terms of what I really wanted to get out of my graduate school experience. One thing that I learned from that class that really drew me to apply to public health graduate programs was the concept of social epidemiology (an epidemiology field that focuses on the social-structural factors of health). Social epidemiology encompasses all of my interests really well and is still a field I'm hoping to enter after I graduate next year. I absolutely love my program and am very happy with the decision I made! 

3. What other courses are you taking and do you have a favorite?
So far, I have taken Biostatistical Methods (SAS programming), Epidemiologic Methods, History of Public Health, Theory-Driven Research, and Research Methods in Health Promotion. I am currently taking Quantitative Data Analysis, Qualitative Research Methods, Community Assessment, Introduction to the U.S. Healthcare System, and Electronic Health Records and Public Health Surveillance. It's so hard to choose a favorite!

I think I'd have to say Epidemiologic Methods. I opted to take the more intensive epidemiology course for my core epi requirement and am very glad that I did. I learned a lot about tracking patterns of disease, which types of studies work well with studying disease trends in certain populations, and statistical modeling and programming. I can't stress enough how incredibly important data is to public health, as well as how instrumental it is in health education and health communication. I currently intern for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and concepts I have learned from my epi class, in addition to what I'm currently learning in my qualitative research methods class, often come up for me when I'm collaborating with my team members or presenting proposals.

4. What are your plans after graduation?
After graduating from Emory, I plan on continuing to build my research and surveillance skills and hope to do so by becoming a public health analyst or behavioral scientist. Since coming to Emory, I have gained a newfound appreciation for evaluation, as well as public health informatics, and would also like to incorporate those skills in my post-grad plans.


Student Profile: Theresa Rager

BC 2017 graduate in Biology (BS) and Medical Humanities minor who took all three courses in the Global Public Health sequence. Theresa is currently an HIV PrEP Navigator at Howard Brown Health through the National Health Corps Chicago AmeriCorps program.

1. Why did you decide to pursue AmeriCorps?
I knew I wanted to do a year of service after graduation. I recognized that being able to do a year of service was a luxury in many ways, and I felt I was fortunate enough to be able to dedicate a year to a community and give back. I also needed a break from school. I wanted work experience before graduate school so I could understand my specific interests and tailor my further education accordingly. I decided on AmeriCorps specifically because of the professional development opportunities (speakers, networking, skill development, etc.) and independence given to members (housing, service hours schedule, etc.).

2. Describe your daily activities as a HIV PrEP Navigator and how is your position related to public health?
PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) is a once-daily pill that prevents HIV. I remember first hearing about PrEP when Dr. Nadia Abuelezam presented to our Public Health in a Global Society class. Fast forward a few years, and I serve as a PrEP Navigator at Howard Brown Health, an LGBTQ-specific Federally-Qualified Health Center. I provide PrEP education to patients who may be vulnerable to HIV or express anxiety about contracting HIV because of their sexual encounters or drug use. Through a patient-centered approach, I help patients decide if PrEP is the right harm reduction strategy for them, and what other strategies they can use in conjunction with or separate from PrEP. Unfortunately, there is only one medication FDA-approved for PrEP (Truvada), which makes the drug quite expensive. I also help patients enroll in medication assistance and copay assistance programs. Lastly, I am able to provide medication adherence counseling and referrals for social service needs (i.e. food, housing, transportation) to patients that may need some extra support in their PrEP care. Most of these activities involve meeting with patients one-on-one in the clinic or following up with them over phone, email, or text message. The high patient interaction is my favorite part of my service!

3. What are your plans after your AmeriCorps year ends?
This year has confirmed my interests in infectious disease and sexual and reproductive health; but it has also confirmed that I want a more global perspective in my career. Therefore, I will be pursuing a Master of Science in Global Health in the fall. My favorite part of my work has been talking to patients in a one-on-one setting about intimate parts of their lives. I think this is a good affirmation that I want to pursue medicine, so I hope to go to medical school the following year.

4. What advice would you give BC students about pursuing post-baccalaureate work in public health?
During my senior spring, I felt I needed a graduate degree or relevant work experience to get a job in the field. For me, going right back to school wasn't an enticing option. If you find yourself in a similar dilemma, I strongly encourage you to look into a year of service--whether through AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, JVC/JVC NW, or other Health Corps! It is a great way to gain experience, learn more about what you like/don't like, move to a new place, and meet new people. Another perk is that AmeriCorps provides an education award upon completing your term to pay back student loans or toward future tuition costs, because they see your education and service as an investment in bettering communities. My co-members will be going in all different directions next year--medical school, public health school, social work school, government fellowships, non-profit work, or another year with AmeriCorps!


Student Profile: Rachel Piccolino

BC Senior (major in Psychology, minor in Medical Humanities) who took Courses 1, 2, and 3 in the Global Public Health sequence and this past summer was an intern at the New York State Department of Health in Albany, NY. Rachel received an Eagle Intern Fellowship to support this unpaid internship.

1. Why did you pursue an internship at the Department of Health? What did you work on?
One of the benefits of growing up near New York's capital is the proximity to the headquarters of the NY State Department of Health. I wanted to be home during the summer and had always been interested in working for a health department on this scale. I was offered an unpaid internship in the Office of Public Health Practice and was able to accept it once I found out that I would receive funding through the Career Center's Eagle Intern Fellowship Program.

I worked on a number of projects, but the most significant was helping the department prepare for the 2019 Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) reaccreditation process. If a state or local health department has proven to PHAB that it is improving the health of its community, it may be able to secure more funding. This is a lengthy process, so even though the paperwork isn't due until 2019, my office had to start gathering information and making plans this past summer, a full two years before the deadline. For this project, my tasks were to attend weekly meetings, analyze data from over 120 local health departments and hospitals, and prepare memos for other offices within the Department of Health.

2. How did the BC global public health courses prepare you for this internship?
I learned so much from BC's public health courses. Besides getting me interested in the field, the courses taught me so many concepts used in public health practice. For my internship, the information that I learned in course 3 (Public Health Practice in the Community) was especially relevant. During this course we read Community Health Improvement Plans (CHIPs) for Allston-Brighton, and at my internship I analyzed CHIPs for each of New York's 62 counties. I also took the information I had learned in courses 1 and 2 about things like chronic disease, mental health, and epidemiology and saw how they were used in the real world.
3. What did you learn about the impact of state public health departments? Do you have any advice for students interested in this area?
One thing that I was most amazed by at NYSDOH was the size! Within the department, there were offices, bureaus, and teams, and more acronyms than I can remember. That being said, the combination of all of these offices means that virtually every aspect of health is covered within the DOH. One of the functions of a state health department is to unite all of the local health departments within that state and to make sure that local health departments are contributing to the state's health goals. State health departments also want to make sure that all of the state's citizens are well informed and the information is accessible in many languages and is culturally appropriate. One of the ways that NYSDOH does this is through their portal of free online classes that are open for anyone to take. Topics range from Maternal/Child Health to Ethics to Health Literacy and beyond.

For students that are interested in working in a state or local health department, an internship is a great way to get your foot in the door. You will meet successful people in many different areas of public health. State health departments are very bureaucratic and it may take a while to work your way up through the ranks. In addition, most jobs require an MPH, DrPH or another advanced degree. Working for a state government can come with drawbacks such as limited funding or a lack of public support, but it can also be rewarding to see the impact it can have on the health of the entire state.

4. What are your plans after graduation?
After graduation, I plan on working for a year or two to gain experience before pursuing my Master's in Public Health. I am currently looking at fellowships and post-grad internship programs as well as entry-level positions in the field. I would love to work for the CDC or a state or local health department someday!


Graduate Profile: Nathalie Lavoie

BC 2016 graduate in Biology (BS) and Medical Humanities (minor) who took course 1 in the Global Public Health sequence

Research Assistant in Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases at Yale School of Public Health

First year student in Masters of Applied Science, Spatial Analysis for Public Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (online program)    

1. What type of research are you working on and how is it related to public health?
I'm working on clinical research of tick-borne diseases (TBD), specifically babesiosis. I'm a part of a project that has monitored the endemic rates of TBD on Block Island in Rhode Island and is investigating various aspects of the clinical illness and exposure. Our goals are very public health oriented - to better understand the risk that this disease presents in New England. 

2. Why did you decide to pursue an online master’s degree?
I realized that there are many specific skills, like GIS, that I've always wanted to learn that I didn't have the chance to do at BC. This is actually the inaugural year for the Spatial Analysis for Public Health program at JHU, so I was lucky that I came across it. The program is really niche about combining two interests I have and offered coursework in specific areas that I wanted to build skills such as R, GIS, and statistics. Doing a program full-time didn't seem possible for me financially, so to find a program with scholarship opportunities and to have a job that helps reimburse the costs was an incredible opportunity I couldn't pass up! 
3. What are your plans after graduation?
Being a part of the research community and continuing academic work has really drawn me towards doctoral work in the future. I'm not sure if that's something I want to do right after my Masters, but it's definitely in future plans. 
4. What do you like about being at Yale?
Generally working at a School of Public Health has been revealing about the breadth of fields tackled within public health. There are lectures at least twice a week that I try to attend to learn about what other research groups are doing. Having access to PhD students, post-doc's, and PI's working in the field just to talk about the field or my specific projects has developed my understanding of public health and vector-borne diseases specifically. 
5. What advice would you give BC students about pursuing post-baccalaureate work in public health?
Post-baccalaureate work in public health is a great way to try out fields you haven't had the opportunity to do work in during your undergraduate studies. If you're unsure about going straight into graduate work or what field you want to work in, my experience has been that you get a survey of the whole process from protocol approval to experimental design and data analysis through a post-bac position. 


Graduate Profile: Christine Callahan

BC 2013 graduate who majored in Biology and minored in Hispanic Studies

2017 MPH candidate in Nutrition, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine

Christine is currently in the Peace Corps as a Community Health & HIV/AIDS Program Volunteer in Outjo, Namibia. She writes a blog called Chronicles in Namibia, which is a collection of her observations as a Peace Corps volunteer through the lens of public health.
We asked if we could share her blog to our growing public health community and this is what she sent – a powerful post on the vaccination campaign for Measles and Rubella. In her words, “the challenges that arose show how culture, history, and racism can affect public health.” We must ask, what are the lessons that we can learn for our own challenges with childhood vaccination in the US?


Graduate Profile: Kimberlyn Austin

BC 2016 graduate in Biology (BA) and Applied Psychology & Human Development who took courses 1, 2 and 3 in the Global Public Health sequence

First year student in the Master’s Entry Nurse Practitioner program, Boston College Connell School of Nursing

1. Why did you decide to pursue a NP degree?
I began my career at BC as an Applied Psychology major, hoping to pursue a graduate education in psychology, with a focus on helping individuals who had been diagnosed with chronic or debilitating diseases. However, as I explored the helping professions, I realized that I wanted to become part of a healthcare team that manages the manifestations of a patient’s disease over the course of their hospital stay. Thus, my sophomore year I started working towards a degree in biology and explored allied-health professions. I found my way to nursing primarily because of its foundation as both an art and a science. The nursing model focuses on incorporating all aspects of human life into health and healing, and it emphasizes that a patient’s mental, emotional, and spiritual needs play as much of a role as their physical needs. I also wanted to eventually become a clinician with enough autonomy to prescribe medications, order diagnostic tests, and initiate treatment plans, so becoming a nurse practitioner seemed like the best fit.

2. How did the global public health courses help you develop a public health lens? Does this influence your training as a NP?
Course 1 of the Global Public Health sequence gave me a strong foundation in terminology and current public health issues, the second class challenged me to think more deeply about the issues that greatly affect the health of many Americans today, and the third class introduced me to the skills necessary to plan and implement community-based interventions. On a broad scale, these three courses help direct the conversations I have with my patients now that I am in a clinical role. Every time I provide education to a patient about the course of their disease or an adjustment their treatment plan, I consider all the individual, economic, and social factors that can influence their ability to make a behavior change or adhere to a medication regimen. This may seem like an obvious task of any provider, but some do not go the extra mile to ensure that their instructions can be followed so that the patient can achieve maximum wellness. 

3. What is a typical week like balancing courses and clinical work?
As a first-year student in the Master’s Entry NP program, I am taking the classes and clinicals required for licensure as a RN, with a couple of classes for NP licensure mixed in. I currently have two 8-hour clinicals each week on Tuesday/Thursdays at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Boston Children’s Hospital. On Mondays/Wednesdays/Fridays, we take the theory courses that align with our clinicals (Childbearing Nursing, Psych-Mental Health Nursing, and Child Health Nursing) as well as an Advanced Pharmacology course.  

4. What are your plans after graduation?
After graduation and after I receive certification as an Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner, I hope to gain more experience through exposure to a variety of medically-complex cases by working at an internal medicine office or on a medical unit in a hospital. In these types of units, the nurse practitioner is responsible for the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of patients diagnosed with a variety of cardiac, neuro, gastrointestinal, pancreatic, and liver conditions. 

5. What do you like about being a grad student at BC?
The Connell School of Nursing has really helped to facilitate a smooth transition into graduate-level coursework and our clinical work at the hospitals. All of the students in my cohort take the same classes at the same time so we have become a very tight-knit group. The faculty of the Master’s Entry NP program is so receptive to our feedback and willing to make adjustment to classes mid-semester if the class suggests an improvement. I also love that the Connell School gave me to the opportunity to be the TA for one of my favorite classes from undergrad—Contemporary Issues in Public Health with Dr. Summer Hawkins.  


Graduate Profile: Nicholas Lawrence

BC 2016 graduate in Biology (BS) who took courses 1, 2 and 3 in the Global Public Health sequence

First year student in the MS, Environmental Medicine program at New York University

1. Why did you decide to pursue a degree in Environmental Medicine?
I have always been interested in the effects of pollution on human health. In my hometown, the public school is built on a site contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), so I grew up hearing about how different chemicals can be related to diseases. As I learned more about health disparities and the social determinants of health, it became clear to me that there are patterns underlying exposure to pollution and that these patterns are reinforced by social and political structures. Some of the most at-risk communities are also those with the highest probability of being exposed. Our current political climate is punctuated with news about environmental disasters and environmental justice movements, such as the lead contamination in Flint, MI, oil spills, the Dakota Access Pipeline, etc., so it is a very interesting time to be studying how these topics actually are affecting communities and individuals. Environmental health is a wonderfully interdisciplinary field, drawing on political science, epidemiology, toxicology, chemistry, public health, and engineering, and I really wanted to enter a program that would expose me to as much as possible before I specialize.
2. What courses are you taking and do you have a favorite?
Last semester, I took courses in statistics, epidemiology, and toxicology. This semester, I'm taking more toxicology courses, as well as environmental health. My favorite course so far in this program has been biostatistics. I love being able to analyze data and see patterns emerge. I also really love toxicology, and I've really begun to appreciate how ubiquitous some exposures are.
3. What are your plans after graduation? 
I'm still exploring career options, but after I finish this program I hope to pursue a Ph.D. I'm really interested in studying the systems that allow environmental exposures to occur, how and when we decide to intervene, and how environmental regulations are imposed. I'm also very passionate about promoting diversity in the STEM fields, and I really want to teach.
4. What do you like about NYC?
What isn't there to love? Living in New York has been incredible. There is so much happening every day that it's almost hard to choose! One really great thing about studying here is that the city can really be brought into the classroom. I took an entire course just on toxicology and the Hudson River. There are so many opportunities to get involved in the community; I'm definitely keeping BC with me as I try to focus on service. Also, there is a really big network of Boston College Alumni here, so it's been great to get to know some of my fellow Eagles!


Graduate Profile: Rundell Douglas

BC 2016 graduate in Biology who took courses 1, 2 and 3 in the Global Public Health sequence

First year student in the MPH - Global Health Policy program at Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University

1. Why did you decide to pursue an MPH?

Community health has been a primary reason for my interest in the healthcare field. I always wanted to collaborate with health institutions to develop and implement sustainable solutions to improve access to care and health outcomes. Through diverse conversations, I realized the connection between my experiences and research interest: health system strengthening. This connectivity provided the necessary scaffolding to develop a critical positionality for my graduate studies.  

2. What courses are you taking and do you have a favorite?

My current academic schedule includes: 

Global Health Study Design

Environmental and Occupational Health

Biostatistical Applications for Public Health 

Global Health Frameworks

Fundamentals of Health Policy 

Global Health Study Design has been my favorite course. It is the one that has offered the most practical approach thus far. I am continuously learning about the various phases of a research project and the necessary tools to develop good public health programs. Given these tools and knowledge, I am challenged to design a research project and see its development from beginning to end. We, of course, neither implement the project nor submit for approval. Overall, they are all phenomenal courses covering various domains of public health. 

3. What are your plans after graduation?

After graduation, I intend work on a research project in a developing country before returning to the US to enroll in a PhD program. Exposed to the diverse thinking of faculty and students, as well as the various possibilities, I continuously explore various avenues to practice my research interest. With the support of my advisor and the prep work for my culminating experience, I am beginning to have a strong sense of direction.   

4. What do you like about DC?

First, I enjoy being back home with family. It's nice to be close to my support system. Second, the maturity gained at BC allows me to appreciate the city through a refreshed perspective. So far, I have learned about a few nooks of DC and history. Everyday, I am still learning the DC roadways since it remains a challenge. Best of all, it is a city with diverse characters, so no day is ever the same. Each day invites a conversation with different individuals with their own unique story. These interactions provides a personal view of the public health issues affecting various communities and influences the research projects I hope to design. 


Graduate Profile: Max Supino

BC 2016 graduate in Biology who took courses 1 and 2 in the Global Public Health sequence

First year student in Community Health and Prevention at Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health

1. Why did you decide to pursue an MPH?

A position in public health allows me to make an impact on a larger scale and to a targeted population. I was premed at BC, but I realized senior year that I enjoyed the social justice aspect of health more than the clinical piece. Public health gives me the social justice piece that was missing.

2. What courses are you taking and do you have a favorite?

I am currently taking 3 courses: Prevention Principles and Practices, Biostatistics and History of Public Health. I will also be starting my practicum after winter break, which is like real fieldwork. My favorite class is surprisingly Biostatistics, but I am ready to dive into more focused courses in the upcoming quarters.

3. What are your plans after graduation?

My plans after graduation are still TBD. I am narrowing down what populations I want to focus on and can really see myself working in child health and with disabled children or working with LGBTQ populations in all sorts of capacities. I know I want to be working directly with the population and interventions as opposed to research. I could see myself at a nonprofit of some sort. Stay tuned.

4. What do you like about Philly?

Philly is a really cool city with lots of culture and things to do. There is always some sort of festival to go to, which was not something I experienced in Boston. It also has great food and being right in the city is a whole different experience than BC, both I've enjoyed. I am still exploring and will continue during my two years here!


Faculty Profile: Nadia Abuelezam, ScD

Connell School of Nursing, Assistant Professor


NURS1210 Public Health in a Global Society (Fall); 

APSY4050 Public Health Practice in the Community (Spring)

1. How did you get into the field of public health?

I had a life changing experience working for The AIDS Support Organization (TASO) in Uganda during college, and it changed my view on the world and my outlook on my future! Health issues, and HIV/AIDS in particular, are deeply embedded in and intertwined with almost every aspect of life for those infected and affected in Uganda. I knew that understanding the intersection between health and society was something I wanted to spend the rest of my life focusing on.

2. Tell us about a research project that you're working on.

I'm currently trying to understand if there's a way to translate people's online behavior on social networking and dating websites into accurate sexual behavior statistics. It's an exciting project! 

3. What do you think is the most pressing issue in global public health?

I think one of the most pressing issues and one of the least understood public health issues currently is racism and discrimination. I think we know very little about how racial inequality, discrimination, and stigma impact health and wellbeing and, more importantly, we don't know how to help people who have experienced this stress in their lives. 

4. What do you enjoy most about the BC community?

I really love interacting with students, especially those who are enthusiastic about public health!


Graduate Profile: Blake Acquarulo

1. Tell us about your graduate school plans for next year.

I am pursuing a two-year master in public health (MPH) in epidemiology of microbial diseases at Yale University, which I am beyond excited about.

The other program I got into was the infectious disease program at Columbia. When I applied I was really looking specifically at the program and thinking what exactly do I fit into at this school, because every school is really different. Yale and Columbia were extremely specific, but the rest I applied to were mostly just epidemiology. I liked how specific they are, because it gives you a more narrow focus and that makes your research and thesis goals easier to find.

2. Which public health courses have you taken at BC and how did they help with the decision to go to graduate school?

I’ve taken Public Health in a Global Society and Contemporary Issues in Public Health, and now I’m taking the third course, Public Health Practice in the Community. I actually took the first course because I needed to fulfill my medical humanities minor requirement and then absolutely loved the class. I was so interested and realized this is something I could see myself doing pretty immediately. Then, I took the second class, which reinforced the desire to keep studying public health and learning more.

This semester I’m in the third class, which is more application based, and it’s really cool. You’re paired up with a Boston health organization and you have to create a program with them and initiate it. This semester I’m working with Allston-Brighton Health Collaborative and we are basically implementing a program that would help people in Allston access the T. There aren’t a lot of food options in Allston that are easy to get to, especially for people in the outskirts. I think it’s been a really great course to wrap up the public health sequence. You learn everything in the first two and in the third you actually apply it.

If I hadn’t taken the first global public health class I would not be sitting here talking about an MPH. It gave me a change in perspective. When I was taking all the pre-med biology classes freshman and sophomore year, I was always thinking

when we’re learning about sickle cell, or some disease, what are the social determinants of health, who get this, and how do they deal with it. These kind of questions aren’t really addressed in biology classes. There are so many bigger aspects to disease.

3. What was that application process like?

It’s pretty much like a regular grad school app. You have a personal statement; it’s really interesting because it’s not like undergraduate. Your personal statement has to be specific to that school. You have to really show why you specifically fit into their program, because you apply directly into your concentration. Usually you also have three letters of recommendation and a list of your extracurricular activities. Some of them you have to interview, but most of them you just send it in and wait to find out.

Last spring I started thinking about applying to graduate school. I took the GRE over the summer, which I would suggest. It’s really hard to take it during the chaos of the fall. I didn’t formally start my application until October. The deadlines are usually rolling. The sooner you apply, the sooner you find out. I started getting answers in early January, right over winter break.

What’s nice about an MPH is that it’s a lot more holistic process than like a medical school application or job interview. The schools really look at you and they want to see passion. If you have weaker scores, like your GPA or GRE, they really want to see that you are passionate and driven and involved. Those things actually matter more, according to most of the admissions people I’ve talked to.

4. What are your long-term goals/ particular interests in public health?

After getting a master’s degree, I definitely want to work for the CDC and do a post-graduate fellowship. They have advanced epidemiology fellowships and they put you somewhere in the world and give you a lot of leeway with it.

I think I want to go to medical school later. That’s still a big question mark. I really want that global health perspective, but I also want to be able to serve even further. You can only do so much with an MPH and having the medical degree would allow me to work internationally and help more people.

5. What advice would you give other students considering an MPH or global health in general?

I would say don’t be afraid to take classes that you might not have. I took the public health class on a whim and found that it’s what I’m going to do with my life. For applications, be confident in your own voice and be confident that you are a good applicant. Oh and don’t panic because you will get into a school! MPH acceptance rates are pretty high in general. Most schools accept top 30-40%. Also do your homework and make sure you’re looking at SOPHAS-accredited schools!

6. One last mention:

Prof Summer Hawkins’ course, and the way that she taught it, was the one that changed things for me. She’s been a real role model, extremely helpful through this process, and one of the few people on this campus I knew who had that degree (Social epidemiology). Finding that one connection with someone who is passionate about the same thing and who wants to help you is amazing. The career center can read your application multiple times but you need someone who really understands the program and what you’re trying to convey.  


Faculty Profile: Melissa Sutherland, PhD, FNP-BC

Connell School of Nursing, Associate Professor


NURS1210 Public Health in a Global Society (Fall); 

NURS3210 Contemporary Issues in Public Health (Spring)

1. Tell us about your role on campus as an educator, clinician, and researcher.

I currently teach in the global public health sequence and I’ve taught the first course, Public Health in a Global Society, four times. I’m also a member of the Global Public Health Initiative that Professor Hawkins has been a leader in. It’s a group of us who meet with the Deans and the Provost on a regular basis to move forward with planning for the minor.

I’m a family nurse practitioner. I’ve worked in different public health clinics in upstate New York. I’m happy to share that I’m just reconnecting with my public health clinician roots and I’m practicing this semester at the same health department. As a nurse practitioner at the public health department, I’ve worked in the Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) clinic, screening people for chlamydia, gonorrhea, Hepatitis C, HIV, syphilis  – so essentially secondary prevention. I’m doing a lot of primary prevention – doing counseling, education, and talking to people about sexual health and health behaviors.

In terms of my research, I am in year 2 of my RO3 [an NIH Small Grant], which is focusing on screening for intimate partner and sexual violence in college health centers. We’re looking at health care providers and college health centers and the organizational factors as well as health care providers’ attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors regarding discussing intimate partner and sexual violence with college women.

It’s work that needs to be done – we have a population at high risk - experiencing violence. I’m a believer in that it takes a community and numerous stakeholders, it takes lots of initiatives and college health is one of those partners, so getting providers to have discussions. If we don’t acknowledge the problem than that doesn’t open the door to allow women to discuss it. That’s what my RO3 is looking at.

2. You were recently granted a Fulbright award. What will you be doing through that opportunity?

I was awarded a Fulbright award and I will be going to Santiago, Chile in March 2017. I’ll be doing a research and teaching Fulbright, so I will be teaching a public health course with faculty at La Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (PUC) as well as doing research with the faculty. At PUC, there is a core group of faculty who focus on HIV risk behaviors.  I plan on working with this group of faculty examining the intersection of HIV and violence against women. Some of that planning work will take place over the next nine months.

One of the goals of the Fulbright is a mutually beneficial exchange of culture and ideas, teaching, research, and so I identified the location and researcher specifically. The Connell School of Nursing has a relationship with PUC. I don’t do HIV work directly, but experiencing sexual violence is a risk factor for STIs and HIV and my work as a clinician at STI clinic will allow us to create some synergy and collaborate.

3. How long have you been working in intimate partner/sexual violence?

I’ve been working in this area since grad school. My dissertation focused on dissociation or dissociative symptoms in women who had experienced interpersonal violence at some point in their lives. What I realized when I got to BC is that, while as a family nurse practitioner I do a lot of mental health with patients, that’s not my area of expertise. It was one of those moments where you step back and consider what are you good at and what are you passionate about. You can be passionate about something, and I am passionate about gender-based violence, but there are so many ways to get involved. The area of dissociative symptoms didn’t seem like the trajectory I needed to or was prepared to follow. I’m passionate about sexual health and the intersection of sexual health outcomes and intimate partner violence.

4. In terms of reaching out to undergraduates who don’t know what public health looks like or how to get involved in it, where would you direct them?

I think taking the courses. For the students who have taken the course we need to encourage them to talk about the course and about public health. There’s a BC public health club. The more we just get the word out, we have public health week – hosted by the people in the initiative.

I would be interested in what students think – how do we identify the public health all around us? How do we engage students in those conversations? I find it fascinating that so many people take the elevator here in Maloney Hall, that don’t necessarily need accommodation. They’re taking the elevator because the steps are harder to find, the elevator is right there in the lobby. So how can we encourage students to embrace some public health initiatives, small as they may be but important. Just like using the filtered water with a reusable cup. I’m certainly not great at all of these things either, but we’ve got to find small ways to make changes and identify those as public health.

I think we have the culture and community that is ripe for talking about public health, so it’s just about continuing to get the word out there. If students need or want something, it’s all about encouraging them to find the path and work with faculty and administrators to have that happen.


Student Profile: Chiamaka Okorie

Chiamaka, CSON ’17, travelled to Ghana this summer through the Amanda V. Houston Fellowship. She shares the impact of the Global Public Health course on her experience:

That class was so important in giving me a foundation to understand public health; I haven't learned that kind of language or explored those topics in depth in any other class!

My take away would be that there is incredible value in context. Everything we learn in class is an important foundation, but we gain more humility, sensitivity, and understanding of reality when we actually experiencing these issues. That's what took me to Ghana and hopefully inspires other people to immerse in their learning!

To read more about her experience, see her article in The Chronicle.


Student Profile: Ayanna Griffith

Ayanna Griffith is a junior political science major in the college of Arts and Sciences and has taken the first two courses in the Public Health Program sequence. 

She shares with us her experience working at UNAIDS:

1. Why are you interested in public health?

My whole life, I’ve been interested in health in general. I thought I wanted to be a doctor from listening to my mom, who is a doctor, come home and talk about medical cases. Now I’m less interested in just treating conditions, but I want to look for solutions on the larger scale that will help more people. I want to be involved in working in communities and doing what they need to better themselves, or provide them with what they think they need to attain better health.

2. What is the most formative experience you’ve had in public health thus far?

This summer I was an intern at Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS Latin America Regional Office. Working at UNAIDS gave me a very different view about what kind of prevention is implemented and how [preventions] should be adjusted to reach certain populations. I was working in key populations, like sex workers. I got to see how even though governments and organizations are implementing campaigns, it doesn’t necessarily mean that these populations are benefitting from them. At a conference with representatives from each of these key populations, a sex worker from an organization in Latin America stood up and said “my country doesn’t recognize that we’re an actual group, because it’s something against the country’s core beliefs”. This essentially means that the country does not want to address their needs or work with them. This disconnect surprised me. It made me realize that we have to work with every group and talk to them about their specific needs so that certain issues can be effectively addressed.

3. How does public health relate to your major and future career goals?

My major, political science, relates because I’m considering going into health policy. In poli sci I get to learn a lot about groups that are minorities, for example immigrants, and I see how a lot of the issues they face are representative of health issues. I find a lot of these connections between different groups we learn about in a political setting and the groups we talk about as being marginalized in public health.

My future career goals include getting a Master’s in Public Health, which I can think of so many ways to apply all over the world. Because I don’t know where in the world I’m going to be living, there are so many ways you can use that MPH for global health.

4. A message to others considering public health:

It doesn’t matter what you’re studying or what you’re interested in. Whatever you’re going to do is going to relate back to public health. Get involved in it and use your skills – working with people and learning new skills is really fulfilling.


Student Profile: Nicoline Bach

1. Why are you interested in public health?

I am interested in public health because it is an interdisciplinary field and affects everyone globally, whether we are aware of it or not. I also think the field is incredibly meaningful because it works towards helping communities stay healthy on a large-scale, not just on an individual level, and tackles issues that affect multiple people, having a large and meaningful impact. I am personally interested in community health, specifically with finding solutions to public health issues, understanding community behaviors, and discovering the causes of such behaviors.

2. What is the most formative experience you've had in public health thus far?

I have had many experiences working in communities, especially at BC with being an Appalachia Volunteer and a 4Boston Volunteer. These experiences, whether I realized it at the time or not, taught me about and exposed me to a great deal of public health issues that people experience every day, from having healthy food options to facing healthcare costs without insurance. I also have had experience working from a more administrative angle in relation to public health. I was an intern at World Vision for a summer and learned about their initiatives in over 90 countries worldwide.  Much of my work revolved around effectiveness evaluation and ensuring that their initiatives were achieving their goals. I hope that I will have more on-the-ground work in my future endeavors to further experience and understand public health issues first hand.

3. How does public health relate to your major and future career goals?

I decided to major in International Studies, as I am interested in international issues and specifically I am concentrating in Economics because I think economics and health are highly intertwined. I am minoring in Medical Humanities and have taken many classes in medical ethics and public health. So I’ve intentionally paired my economics background with a health-concentrated minor.

In the future, I hope to get my Masters in Public Health and work for a non-profit organization that combats public health issues, both domestically and internationally, including organizations like the Gates Foundation and The Clinton Foundation. In the short term, I will be a Teach for America Corps member in the Greater Boston area and I hope to learn more about domestic public health issues by being integrated in communities that may not have the resources to maintain healthy lives. During my job search, I also found many public health related positions that require an economics background and I have found my major to be highly related to my future goals.

4. Have you had any public health experiences outside of the classroom?

This year, I have participated in the Undergraduate Research Fellowship program and am a Research Assistant in the Economics Department. I am working with Professor Baum, from the Economics department, and Professor Hawkins, from the School of Social Work, on a project that analyzes the impact of tobacco control policies on adolescent tobacco use. So far, I have worked on collecting datasets across multiple years from CDC reports, cleaning data and constructing variables, and working with STATA, a statistical software. Through this experience, I have been able to combine my economics background with my interest and passion in a public health issue. It has been a great way to understand how these two disciplines are interdependent and how public health really does require an interdisciplinary approach. I know this experience will be helpful in future endeavors, as a statistical and empirical approach is often required to analyzing and solving public health issues.


Fall 2015 Update

I met with a student recently who said, “I’ve caught the public health bug.” And it made me think, is public health a communicable disease? There is a great buzz at BC around global public health. The theme of the first Advancing Research and Scholarship at Boston College event this December was global public health, which showcased research by students and faculty. The new global public health initiative launched in September with 67 students in the first course, Public Health in a Global Society. Watch a student video from the assignment called ‘This is Public Health @ BC.'It is inspired by the American Public Health Association's video Public health is…. What does public health mean to you?

Follow us—we’re now on Twitter: PublicHealth_BC—and sign up ( for our public health list serve to receive updates on local events and student opportunities, including jobs and internships. We have an exciting semester ahead of us. And be careful, public health may be contagious.

-Prof. Summer Hawkins



Spring 2015 Update

We’re celebrating the first year of Global Public Health @ BC! This spring we launched the second course of our sequence, Contemporary Issues in Public Health. Watch a PSA created by students addressing a major public health issue: salt. What is your daily salt intake? BC students check here.

What should we do about high sodium levels? Are tomatoes purchased from the Fair Food Program, which we learned about in Food Chains during National Public Health Week? You can now check out the film from the BC library.

Armed with data and knowledge, how can we address global public health issues? Learn about community engagement and putting research into practice in the third course, Public Health Practice in the Community, which will launch in Spring 2016. Check our website for information.

We’re planning more speakers and events next year, so please let us know what you would like to see on campus ( Enjoy the break and we’ll resume our weekly emails in September.

-Prof Summer Hawkins & GPH faculty

Twitter: PublicHealth_BC


National Public Health Week

On April 6-10th, the Global Public Health program sponsored events in conjunction with National Public Health Week. Events included film screenings, lectures, and a GIS mapping display in O'Neill library. The theme for the week was "Healthiest Nation 2020."  

event schedule