Erin Reynolds, University of Iowa, PhD Candidate in Epidemiology

There was a time when Erin Reynolds thought she was going to study medicine. However, when she completed her undergraduate studies with degrees in Microbiology and History, those degrees – and an aversion to blood – led her to the realization that medicine was not for her.

While pursuing her history degree, Erin became fascinated with the history of medicine, particularly the social aspects of disease discussed in Paul Farmer’s Infections and Inequalities. While learning about health grievances around the world in a “History of International Health” class, she decided that she wanted to contribute to the alleviation of health inequalities. It seemed like the universe agreed. Within a few days of the decision, she saw a Peace Corps recruitment poster with the message: “Life is calling. How far will you go?”  At that moment, Erin’s life changed dramatically.  She had plans to secure a PhD in Microbiology, but shifted gears and applied to Boston University’s Master’s International (MI) Program. Per Erin, the MI Program combines an MPH program with 27 months of field experience in the Peace Corps. This combination produces graduates who are especially adept at serving in international public health contexts.  Says Erin, her experience in the MI Program and the Peace Corps helped her grow as a person and a scientist, and started her down the path of public service which she hopes to continue after graduation.

Erin’s academic interests are diverse. Her favorite global health issues include infectious diseases, vaccination programs, and environmental exposures. She also has has strong interests in infectious disease epidemiology, especially vector-borne diseases, sexually transmitted diseases, and zoonotic diseases. Her master’s thesis, A critical review of the existing literature concerning Willingness to Pay studies on insecticide-treated bednets and an analysis of the National Bednet Campaign in Togo, Africa combined her love of malaria and her experiences in the Peace Corps. Erin’s doctoral thesis, Exploring chikungunya fever in Southern India: A needs assessment, educational intervention, and evaluation demonstrated not just a keen interest in vector-borne diseases, but also in program design and evaluation.

While her interest in zoonotic diseases was both home-grown and nurtured abroad, it was a course within her PhD program that sparked it. Her experiences growing up in Iowa and visits to agricultural areas in India and Africa taught her the importance of working relationships with agricultural workers and veterinarians. Given the number of newly emerging infectious diseases that are zoonotically-based, Erin was intrigued by this area of field work. As a Peace Corps volunteer, one of her primary duties was to assist local health clinic efforts in promoting childhood vaccinations. Also high on Erin’s list of favorite global health topics is vaccination programs, both domestic and international. Having worked as a lead poisoning education outreach specialist in Vermont and as a volunteer for her local HazMat team, Erin finds environmental exposures an interesting and important field of study.

Erin has had the opportunity to travel quite a bit: Studying abroad during undergrad; Peace Corps in West Africa; and collecting her dissertation data in southern India. She thoroughly enjoyed her time spent in Tamil Nadu, and would love to continue exploring India.  She is currently seeking work that involves epidemiology and Global Public Health. She’d love to work in malaria prevention, but since she finds so much of global public health fascinating, would be happy with any number of positions. She is looking both at the CDC and nongovernmental organizations; and whether she lands in a position in the United States or overseas doesn’t really matter. It would be a bonus though, she says, if her professional life provides the opportunity to travel or live abroad. “So whether I end up in Washington DC, Atlanta, or someplace in Africa, I’ll be happy as long as I’m working in global public health!” she says.

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