Real-world experience leads WVU student to career in public health

Adeline Hill’s journey in healthcare began with the intention to pursue a clinical profession and a volunteer position as an emergency medical technician near her hometown of Purcellville, Virginia, to gain experience.

“During my time in the field as an EMT, I witnessed countless forms of health disparities and the lack of evidence-based intervention for managing population health,” she said. “I was able to gain a more comprehensive perspective on the root factors that impact health outcomes.”

The real-world experiences sparked an interest in public health for Addie and led her to West Virginia University. Once enrolled in the School of Public Health, she joined Monongalia Emergency Medical Services as an EMT while pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Public Health. Her continued work with members of the community furthered her desire to seek comprehensive solutions to protecting and promoting health.

“Through my work with the local population both here in Morgantown and in northern Virginia, I’ve gained an interest in substance use disorders and the intersection between substance use and infectious disease transmission as well as harm reduction and domestic violence prevention.

“The School of Public Health has allowed me to pursue a large variety of interests to help me figure out ‘what I want to be when I grow up.’ I loved the connection I was able to make between what I saw in the EMS field and concepts in public health. The hands-on opportunities really let me explore different curiosities and find a career direction.”

While pursuing her undergraduate degree, Addie has been guided by several mentors who have introduced her to a variety of research opportunities and helped her solidify a career pathway. By introducing her to various fields, from qualitative gender-based violence to endocarditis and occupational health, she gained the skills and knowledge necessary to foster a career in research.

“I started out knowing I wanted to get involved in research but was hesitant to ask at first,” she recalled. “I ended up reaching out to professors whose work matched my interests, and they were all extremely willing to help get me involved in their work and mentor me.”

Addie’s senior year field placement experience allowed her to bring together her experiences in emergency medical service, research and public health and background knowledge from a minor in addiction studies to focus on substance use research. Working with Erin Winstanley, Ph.D., an adjunct faculty member in the School of Medicine Department of Behavioral Medicine & Psychiatry, and her research team, Addie gained additional insights into the processes of conducting research, contributed to projects and learned skills to prepare her for graduate education and a career in research. Her work focused on a study examining overdose morbidity in individuals seeking medical services following fentanyl overdose.

“This project really allowed me to combine all my previous EMS, research and public health experience,” she said.

Following graduation, Addie will pursue a master’s degree in epidemiology and hopes to eventually earn a Ph.D. that allows her to contribute to substance use research that advances surveillance methods and evidence-based approaches to addressing substance use disorders.

Reflecting on her journey in the School of Public Health, Addie’s advice to her freshman self is to not feel hesitant about reaching out for support.

“Everybody at the school is always there if you need anything, so just don’t ever be afraid to ask. Faculty and staff are all committed to your success and always willing to provide mentorship. No matter what your end goal is, the resources and support are here to guide you to achieving objectives.”



MEDIA CONTACT: Lindsay Wiles
Director of Marketing and Communications
WVU School of Public Health