This summer, I participated in the Summer Program in Epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. I sought out this opportunity to further explore some of the concepts that have been touched on in my health studies courses that have geared me towards an interest in a public health career. Since Haverford does not have a public health program, I knew I would need to seek out some alternate options to learn more about this field. I applied to several programs and was accepted and chose to attend the program at Harvard! This program was 5-weeks long and during this time, we took classes, attended lectures from Harvard faculty, did GRE prep, and worked with a mentor to learn about research.
Being at Harvard was an amazing experience, it took me a while to realize it, but I’ve read work by many of the faculty and even had the opportunity to meet some of them! It was great to network with all these incredible professors doing such interesting and important work in public health. However, one of the most rewarding experiences of this program was the opportunity to network with and meet current graduate students. As someone who does not know anyone who went through the process of getting a Ph.D. or is going through it now, this was especially useful in helping me learn what life is like as a graduate student. It is one thing to sit down and hear admissions talks and lectures. But to meet people who are currently going through it really gives you insight into what life is like as a graduate student. And I was lucky enough to meet a current student who is a Swarthmore alumna. She quickly became a mentor for me and has helped guide me throughout my 5-weeks and beyond.
My program consisted of eight students and our cohort became very close over the course of our time together. I think one of the biggest takeaways for me in all of the programs I participate in are the other students I meet. Not only are they some of my good friends, but they are also great people to stay in contact with. I think it is very important to have a network of peers who are interested in what you are interested in. You all can share opportunities with each other now, and once you are all working and in higher roles at your respective jobs, you have a network of people to collaborate with and learn from.
For the research component of the program, I chose to focus on an independent project titled: Mass Incarceration and Public Health: An Opportunity for Intervention. Building off some of the work I have done for final projects in my health studies classes, I decided that this would be an interesting area to apply some of my newfound epidemiological knowledge. The primary focus of the work was an intervention critique of some of the existing health system interventions in carceral care settings. My favorite part of my presentation poster was my ecological diagram! I made it myself from scratch and got several compliments during my poster presentation.
Doing independent research on a topic that I find interesting was extremely exciting work! It is not easy work but the fact that I stuck with it and found it so rewarding is a good sign for me. This solidified my interest in public health and I cannot wait to explore the field further.