FYI about Scott: Traveled to Nigeria, Haiti, and Central and South America to hone his medical interests
Award received: Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention Experience Applied Epidemiology Fellowship
Why is this award important to you? I knew that someday in the future I would be out on my own in a community with minimal resources and wanted to know the skills to identify a problem within the patient population, collect data, analyze the data at my kitchen table at night, and be able to implement an intervention in the morning for the folks in need. I thought about applying for a master’s of public health, but some of the folks who practice this sort of community medicine suggested that it’s best to just get out and do it. That’s when I came upon the CDC Experience, which is essentially much of the MPH degree translated into a year of mentorship and practice.
What will it help you to achieve? Since August, I have been working at the Enteric Diseases and Epidemiology Branch of CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Bacterial, and Mycotic Diseases. During the course of the fellowship, I will conduct epidemiologic research, help design public health interventions, and participate in field investigations. I just returned from Los Angeles where I was sent with a team of Epidemiology Intelligence Service Officers for an outbreak of Hepatitis B in a subacute psychiatric facility. We conducted a cohort study of the residents to identify the potential cause of the outbreak and made recommendations for immunizations and further public health interventions regarding infection control. I also am receiving classroom training and attending special seminars on topics such as public health surveillance, biostatistics, and health policy. One of the surveillance projects that I will likely work on is a correlation of Salmonella species trends mapped according to different variables such as climate, population density, socioeconomic status, geographic, or any other demographic or epidemiologic parameter using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) programming. Currently I am writing a paper on the descriptive epidemiology of a species of bacteria called Vibrio-alginolyticus that is increasing faster than any of the other non-Cholera species that we monitor in the United States. I hope to learn a skill set here to be a patient-focused primary care physician with the ability to systematically and effectively address the issues of the patient cohort that I care about.
Why do you think you won it? I think I was awarded this opportunity because I’ve expressed an interest in using public health as a part of my practice in the future and have a background of experience. Since undergrad I’ve had the privilege to work with resource-poor communities both locally and abroad. The needs of the poor are what inspire me to pursue and complete an education in medicine in order to use the gifts and opportunities bestowed upon me to better the lives of some folks who cannot themselves.
How competitive was this award? This is the fifth year the fellowship has been offered. Second- and third-year medical students from all across the country apply, and eight are selected.
What has been the most challenging part of medical school? The most challenging part of medical school is the social and personal sacrifices required to fulfill the demanding lifestyle of the med student. Giving up hobbies, relationships, and many extracurricular interests for this career path was unforeseen and is still a challenge to cope with. I’m sure there are other students that have found a way to balance life and school better, but I have had to find new passions within medicine to make up for those sacrificed and will be eternally grateful to have found purpose in global health.
What are your plans after medical school? After medical school, I intend to pursue a career in primary care medicine. Whether I go through a med/peds combined residency or family practice, I hope to practice as a community physician in an under-resourced population. There is a chance that I may apply for a fellowship in infectious disease or tropical medicine, not for the sake of the specialty, but rather for the increased ability to serve the kind of folks who are typically affected by these health inequities, particularly in the tropical regions of the world. Wherever I might go and whichever specialty I belong to, I will be intimately involved in the welfare of a community somewhere, using the skills I learned this year to address their needs both individually and as a people group.
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