I met my host, Dr. Kate Muessig ‘02, at a small coffee shop across the street from the school of public health. As we ate breakfast and introduced ourselves, we talked about our respective Princeton experiences and learned about each other in a casual, relaxing environment before we started talking about anything related to public health. This warm, welcoming attitude was evident with everyone I met. Perhaps it was so-called “southern hospitality,” but either way, it enhanced my Princeternship experience. I greatly enjoyed this Princeternship experience not only because I was able to meet with so many people who worked in diverse areas of public health, but also due to the warm welcome that everyone showed me. It really affirmed my interest in pursuing a career in a field that has both diverse participants and global impact.
Our first stop of the day was with Dr. Edwin Fisher, a Professor in the Health Behavior department. We sat in on his graduate seminar called “Social and Peer Support in Health: An Ecological and Global Perspective.” Those three hours of discussion opened my eyes to some pertinent aspects of healthcare that I had never thought of before, namely, the importance of social support systems in managing chronic diseases. I had never thought of social support being used in that way and I began to see how even things that seem small can have a profound impact on quality of healthcare.
After the seminar, I had a lunch with Dr. Jessica Lin, a clinician and researcher who works in the hospital and does research in the infectious disease department with malaria. It was interesting to hear the perspective of someone who does both research and clinical work. On one hand, there is the satisfaction of the doctor-patient relationship, and on the other hand, there is the excitement of working on a research project and breaking new ground in science. A profession like Dr. Lin’s is definitely the best of both worlds. After lunch, she even gave me a tour of her lab!
After Dr. Lin and I said our goodbyes, I reconvened with Dr. Muessig and had a good discussion about her numerous projects including her work with HIV/AIDS prevention and advocacy in China and a mobile app that she and her team are working on that would help groups vulnerable to HIV and other diseases have easy and user-friendly access to health related information. In addition to hearing from the opinions of established researchers over the next few days, I was also exposed to a variety of graduate students who gave me great insight on going to graduate school and their paths in life that led them to the field of public health. I met Justin Byron, a doctoral student working on tobacco prevention, Marc Potempa, who works in virology studying the HIV virus, and Kumi Smith, who works in epidemiology of HIV in China.
Unfortunately, the third day of my trip was cut short by a “monster” snowstorm of one inch that managed to shut down the university and the town of Chapel Hill. However, Dr. Muessig and I still managed to meet up for lunch and reflect on the Princeternship. As I collected my thoughts, I realized that whether I go into public health or not is something that I do not necessarily need to decide now. However, I realized that I would really like to pursue a career with global or at least wide-ranging impact. Public health is a field that is incredibly diverse and allows people to affect world health through a variety of different mediums. Something I noticed among the numerous people I talked to throughout the Princeternship was the immense diversity in the way everyone discovered public health and found their way into the field. Some originally wanted to be medical students and some were medically trained, while others found the career through varied life experiences. I am still in the early stages of my life, and no matter where my career takes me, through this Princeternship, I now have a better sense of what work in public health has to offer, opening another door for opportunity.
I would like to thank Dr. Muessig, Dr. Fisher, Dr. Lin, and everyone else I met during the Princeternship for offering their perspectives and giving me a warm welcome during my stay at Chapel Hill. I would also like to thank the Princeton Office of Career Services, Rachel Jimenez, and the Princeternship program for organizing and offering such a great opportunity.