Musings of a Public Health Student

Once upon a time, I thought I was going to be a doctor.  A neurosurgeon, to be specific.  I read an autobiography by one of the very, very few female neurosurgeons in the US, and I was hooked by the author’s description of her hard work, determination, and eventual prestige in a field that was traditionally dominated by men.  I was convinced that there was no other career path that could be so satisfying.  Then I went to college.

In addition to enormous struggles with the first semester of organic chemistry and a preference for sipping drinks over studying formulas, my Jesuit college education introduced me to a world of service and justice that was totally unlike the requisite community service hours I had completed during high school. For the first time, I began to examine the reasons why service to others was necessary; what situational injustices and systematic failures had led to the inequality I faced not only in my college town of Baltimore, MD, but also across the nation in Mississippi, Camden, NJ, and NYC as I traveled on service trips during each Spring Break.

While volunteering with patients at a free health clinic in Baltimore, interacting with people experiencing homelessness in Camden, and meeting with HIV and AIDS patients in NYC, I was deeply moved by the people I met, and the many ways in which they were not unlike myself.  Slowly, the stigmas of homelessness, poverty, and other social conditions lifted, and I began to understand the need for social change and responsible leadership.  Action for me started slowly, with advocacy letter-writing, signature-gathering, and eventually political lobbying.  And then I discovered public health.

The concept of public health is founded in the human rights, but also in good strong common sense and passion for the constant challenge to improve.  Will there always be disease? Probably.  But can we eliminate excess death and illness? Absolutely.  Doctors work to reduce that excess death and illness patient by patient, and they do an excellent job at that.  But in that effort of medical professionals to work on the individual level, the societal level gets left to politicians, healthcare administrators, and business developers.

Public health, to me, aims to bring together the intersection of a passion for health with political, administrative, and developmental characteristics.  With this education (that I embark on this year) I hope to be able to make the kind of big-picture changes to the way we think not only about health, but about the many other factors that affect health.

And I plan to write about it.  After that terrible first semester of organic chemistry, I decided to balance out my Biology major with courses in Writing, and I suppose this is what that has amounted to: a blog chronicling my pursuit of a master’s degree in public health.  I’ll cover information relevant to what I’m learning in my program, what I’m discovering by experience, and probably a few unrelated topics that I can’t resist writing about.

So I invite you to not only read along, but to comment, ask questions, even disagree – public health as I see it is supported by conversation, so please join mine.  And please be patient – I’m no expert, yet 🙂


4 thoughts on “Musings of a Public Health Student

  1. It will be a hard life; one without reward, without remorse, without regret. A path will be placed before you. The choice is yours alone. Do what you think you cannot do. It will be a hard life, but you will find out who you are.

    We will watch your career with great interest.

  2. Pingback: Think Public Health | amanda mph

  3. Pingback: Medical School: The First Day | amanda mph

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