“Epidemiologist… so you work on people’s skin?”

Goal 3: To seek to ensure health and well-being for all at every stage of life.

As a newly minted Master of Public Health graduate, I face the inevitable question, “So what are you going to do with your degree?” For the luckier graduates, this question comes with a more direct answer — “I’m going to be a doctor and save lives” or “I’m going to work in a hospital and improve healthcare.” With a concentration in Epidemiology, the answer to this question sounds like a fable prosed by Hans Christian Andersen. A seamless, two sentence response somehow turns into a narrative — with a moral undertone.

Answering this question involves breaking down barriers to how healthcare is traditionally viewed. I usually say — “I am not a doctor but I can tell you social determinant causes of that disease” or “I won’t work in a hospital, but I can explain why we need equitable healthcare for all.” Epidemiology explores how disease affects health at a population level, and it is often referred to as disease investigation. I’d like to think I would be friends with the famous detective, Sarah Lund, in the Danish TV series Forbrydelsen. I can say I use data to understand trends in disease, but then again “bad-ass female disease detective” has a nice ring to it.

My interests and background focus on cross-disciplinary issues in health and the environment. I am currently finishing my Master’s thesis at George Washington University in Washington, DC. My research focuses on acculturation and risk of lead poisoning among children in the U.S. using a nationally-representative sample from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The goal of my research is to identify populations most at risk for lead poisoning. Lead exposure is a serious health issue, especially among children, where it can cause impairments in cognitive development and nutritional deficiencies. I am dedicated to understanding health inequities and identifying underserved populations. My true passion lies in how food systems, agriculture, and nutrition interact to affect health outcomes.

In just 16 days, I will join the other participants of UNLEASH in Copenhagen, Denmark in an effort to tackle the Sustainable Development Goals. UNLEASH is all about working together — what better place to foster collaboration and productivity than in the happiest country in the world? I will be working on Goal 3: to seek to ensure health and well being for all at every stage of life. I hope to also contribute to the work of Goal 2: to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.

So, the next time someone asks me what I’m going to do with my degree, I hope to say that I will be a fearless leader in tackling the world’s most pressing public health and environmental issues. And… well… if that is still confusing, I can at least assure them that I am more than skin deep.

Washington Monument, Washington, DC, USA