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My Journey to Public Health

Morgan Lane '12
Morgan Lane '12

At Hamilton, I was a bit lost figuring out  how to combine my interests in health research and policy and development. I realized I didn’t want to do lab work and I wasn’t sure about pursuing a career in politics either. I enjoyed advocacy work and thought about pursuing law school. However, as a junior, I studied abroad with the SIT International Honors Program in Health and Community and found my passion in global health. The field offers so many opportunities for different career pathways with a focus on population health and the reduction of health inequities. In global health, I could  conduct research, work in public health practice, or engage in advocacy. Returning to Hamilton, I joined the Global Health Organization, participated in public health internships, and searched for ways to pursue a career in global health.

After graduation, I joined the Peace Corps as a health extension volunteer in Timor-Leste and worked with a local health clinic, as well as an infectious diseases program in a district public health department. My service in the Peace Corps taught me a lot about global health and development and furthered my interest in environmental health and infectious diseases. While I learned a great deal through this experience, I recognized that making a true impact in global health would require me to develop more specific technical skills. So when I returned to the US, I decided to pursue an M.P.H. in Global Health with a concentration in Infectious Diseases at Emory University. I also received certificates in water, sanitation, and hygiene (W.A.S.H.) and complex humanitarian emergencies. 

An M.P.H. degree from Emory, and most other institutions, prepares you for a career in the field by providing a baseline understanding of the important areas of public health: epidemiology, biostatistics, healthcare policy and management, behavioral and social science, environmental health, and global health. Throughout my degree program, I took as many courses as I could on topics  of special interest to me to help me develop the necessary skills to pursue a career in infectious diseases. I also joined the Student Outbreak Response Team, the Emory Global Health Organization, and the Medical Reserve Corps, which all allowed me to gain more experience in public health practice. 

One of the most valuable experiences in this program was being a graduate research assistant with the Serious Communicable Diseases Program at the Emory School of Medicine. During  this assistantship, I learned more about infectious diseases research and public health/healthcare preparedness. I also completed a practicum experience and thesis project, which allowed me to work with a public health organization conducting global health programmatic work, giving me another perspective on the field.

Following graduation, I was fortunate enough to continue my work with the Department of Infectious Diseases at the Emory School of Medicine, where I am now a senior public health program associate. Throughout my two and a half  years in this role, I have worked with the Planetary Health and Infectious Diseases Research Group conducting research on the association between changes in the climate and infectious diseases, conducted bioaerosol sampling in the hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic, and worked with the Healthcare Human Factors Lab. I believe that this position really shows how public health can be applied to many different skill sets and topics. I have found that translational environmental health research is the niche that I enjoy, but there are so many other areas to explore in the field of public health for those interested in population health.

Currently, I am applying to Ph.D. programs in environmental health. Through this degree program, I hope to further develop my skills in modeling the impacts of environmental change on human health, and better understand how we use this knowledge to mitigate and adapt to the overwhelming and urgent challenges of our time. 

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