My Story: Public Health
This is the story of one student's path to graduate school, from the initial curiosity about the subject through the application process.
For me, pursuing a graduate degree in public health was not an immediate or clear-cut choice. I originally had my heart set on becoming a doctor, specifically an OB/GYN, and I spent much of college working towards that goal. I loved the idea of working directly with patients and helping others, and health and wellness had always fascinated me. Medicine seemed like a great fit.
As I became immersed in pre-med coursework, however, I noticed that my classmates were fascinated by very different issues than those that appealed to me. While they enjoyed learning about biological details — the intricacies of the HIV virus structure, the chemical processes involved in breathing, and the cellular development of a fetus — I wondered about the larger issues that affected people's health. I wanted to know about the social factors that placed certain people at risk for HIV, the environmental conditions that made it more difficult for kids in urban areas to breathe, and the best ways to educate expectant mothers about the nutrients they needed. While most of my coursework was grounded in the hard sciences, my interests strayed much more into the social sciences.
Luckily, during my senior year, I was able to self-design an area of concentration for my human biology major, allowing me to explore my "fuzzier" interests. Because I had gained a strong background in reproductive health, I decided to focus my studies on international women's health and policy. Through classes in health and human rights, health policy, medical ethics, and feminist studies, I finally got the chance to blend my interests in science and in society. My new courses involved intensive reading and writing, which I enjoyed immensely more than the problem sets and laboratory work I had been doing previously. I also found that this new work came...