I will always remember the opportunity I had to forge my own path and seek experiences that fit my personality and interests.
Why did you choose to study public health at WVU?
My first introduction to the field of public health happened when working on the public health merit badge while progressing to the rank of Eagle Scout. I didn’t know before that there was an entire field dedicated to addressing health problems that existed outside of the hospital and doctor’s office, and this intrigued me.
When applying for college, I made sure to do my research and explore the options across the country. However, growing up in West Virginia, I learned to understand the bond that the University provides for our people. Morgantown is very different than Charleston, yet I still feel that I am home. I wanted a college experience where I could forge my own path and follow my interests, instead of merely jumping through hoops to get to medical school.
What does public health mean to you?
Public health is the study of the ways that society can become healthier, happier and safer. As a future physician, I have learned to view public health as a medium to understand all of the factors that play into health and wellness. I find it important to ask the “why?” questions when dealing with sickness, so as to fix the problem at its source. We have become so infatuated with healing sickness instead of fixing the root causes themselves.
What about the public health major interests you the most?
I was raised in a medical household. My dad is an anesthesiologist, and my mom is a registered nurse. They would always teach me about medicine, and I learned a lot about the subject over the years. When I got to WVU and began to learn more about public health, I was introduced to a whole different perspective on medicine. I now have a better understanding of how prevention comes into medicine and how public health and medicine go hand-in-hand.
Have you had any particular professors or faculty members who have made an impact on you while at WVU?
When I answered this question my first semester at WVU, I believe I said Dr. McCawley. At that time, I hadn’t met many people in the School of Public Health, yet he still tops the list of faculty I appreciated learning from. I also spent time researching with Dr. Dina Jones and Dr. Ranjita Misra, both of which displayed passion for the field and allowed me to gain research experience in topics that are close to my heart.
When was a moment you realized public health was the right fit for you?
At my freshman orientation, I was the only entering School of Public Health student. Because of this, my first introduction to the school was a one-on-one meeting between my family and former Dean Hunt. She was the first person I identified with the school, and became a mentor of mine over the years. The personal touch I received at the beginning of my time set the tone for my education. I always felt comfortable knocking on her office door to ask a question or catch up.
What are some unique or interesting experiences you’ve had during your time at WVU?
Everyone who knows me knows that I don’t like to reject an opportunity. While at WVU, I have taken part in numerous experiences including the Student Association of Public Health, the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity, the White House Internship Program, two research projects, volunteering at Ruby Memorial Hospital, being a biology teacher’s assistant, and continuing in Boy Scouting. I will look back at my college experience as busy, yet never boring.
You’re ending your academic journey during a very unique time in our history. What has been the good and the bad about studying public health during a pandemic and completing your college experience during this time?
For four years, I have listened to lectures and read textbooks about disaster prevention, disease epidemiology and other topics in public health. The pandemic has caused great burden and loss in our society, which will never escape our minds. Yet it has also exemplified the necessity of having strong and efficient public health infrastructure and response. My peers and I have been granted the opportunity to apply our education and serve on the frontlines of the pandemic. My capstone project with the Monongalia County Health Department has allowed me to serve as a coronavirus tester and volunteer at the vaccination clinics. This service opened my eyes more to the important work that public health officials provide during times of need.
What do you want to do after graduation?
As mentioned before, I will be starting medical school at WVU School of Medicine. At this point, I intend on entering the field of general surgery or gastroenterology. These fields are personal to me, as I have lived with Crohn’s Disease for almost eight years. I have witnessed what it means to be a patient, and plan on using that perspective and my medical background to help inform and craft health policy to make our society healthier, more equitable and safer in the future.
What will you always remember from your time at WVU?
I will always remember the opportunity I had to forge my own path and seek experiences that fit my personality and interests. My mentors and advisers always supported my decisions to push the bounds and write my own path. I was able to take a semester off and move to Washington, D.C., where I learned firsthand about how government plays a part in the creation and implementation of public health. I joined a fraternity and met some lifelong friends. I even continued in Scouting, teaching merit badges related to public health, medicine and emergency preparedness. Each one of these moments have made me who I am today.
What are you looking forward to most after graduation?
I am genuinely excited to start medical school this fall. Although it will be a stressful and complicated time, I look forward to learning how to become a thoughtful and intelligent caregiver for my patients. In the meantime, the next couple months will be spent traveling and spending time with friends and family.
What would you tell prospective students about WVU and the School of Public Health?
One thing I would tell prospective students is to consider public health, especially if you’re interested in medical school. Public health will allow you to fulfill that dream. With the program, you are able to not only get all the prerequisites for medical school, but also develop a different approach to treating patients. Public health will also allow you many different career opportunities if you decide medical school is not necessarily right for you. It still enables you to help individuals and communities as a whole.