Jessica Ho, an Honors student who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in cellular biology and a Master of Public Health degree, says the Double Dawgs program brings her closer to realizing her goal of becoming a physician epidemiologist.
Bachelor of Science in cellular biology and Master of Public Health with a concentration in epidemiology, minor in anthropology
My advisors in the Honors Program discussed the Double Dawgs program with me during my first semester at UGA. The university is incredibly generous with awarding credits for advanced placement courses from high school, which afforded me the opportunity to explore different fields of study and diversify my academic and professional interests. Having the flexibility and support to personalize my curriculum helped me navigate the demands of both degrees and a minor, maintain a healthy work-life balance, and pursue summer enrichment experiences. I started taking graduate-level courses spring semester my freshman year, and I credit that decision to the undergraduate coordinator of the B.S./M.P.H. program, Dr. Mumbi Anderson. She was my instructor for “Introduction to Public Health” (PBHL 3100) and guided me, step-by-step, through the application process. Through her, the Honors Program, and Double Dawgs, I am one step closer to realizing my goal of becoming a physician epidemiologist.
I want to combine my studies in biomedical sciences and population health to better understand, diagnose, and treat chronic diseases. Doing so requires that we juggle two different perspectives. One of my professors once explained that dichotomy to me with a broom closet analogy. Physicians see individual patients behind the closed doors of the closet, whereas public health professionals see the line of patients waiting outside. Stateside, I anticipate that will translate to conducting clinical trials research to improve patient care and outcomes and epidemiology research to identify factors and exposures that may contribute to disparities in health trajectories and risk. Abroad, I want to get involved in community-driven health systems development and capacity building. Ultimately, I would like to influence global health policy through an equity platform. A Master of Public Health degree will complement my pre-medical undergraduate degree by providing me a more holistic conceptualization of health care, from discoveries at the bench to population-level interventions.
It is hard to pick one favorite, as I have had the privilege of meeting so many amazing professors at the university. As a faculty member at an R1 institution, you are called upon not only to conduct research but also to teach, administrate and mentor. It would be impossible for me to choose one professor as my favorite, as so many have contributed to the wonderful experiences I have had here.
Professor Lance Wells is my research mentor and academic advisor extraordinaire. In addition to explaining research projects, helping me design and troubleshoot my experiments, and letting me attend and present at conferences around the country, he has advised me on classes to take, summer enrichment opportunities, and career decisions. Everyone in his lab, especially the graduate students with whom I have worked (Stephanie Stalnaker, Stephanie Halmo and Sally Boyd), has been so welcoming, helpful and supportive. I credit them for fostering in me a love for the bench.
Dr. Christina Joseph has also been instrumental to my personal and professional development. I have taken several of her anthropology courses, all of which have added a cultural dimensionality and interdisciplinary perspective to my studies. Through her assigned readings and class discussions, I have developed an appreciation for the diverse manifestations of socioeconomic and geopolitical phenomena on individual lived realities and the constructs through which those realities are interpreted. Most of all, I just find it beyond cool to study how different populations choose to understand, navigate and exist in a shared physical world.
Dr. Changwei Li, Professor Toni Miles, and Professor José Cordero have not only taught me fundamental courses in epidemiology but also have advised me about ways to merge my interests in global health, clinical research and patient care. Professor Miles taught me to broaden my horizons and realize that I may not want nor be able to pursue all my goals simultaneously. Professor Cordero advised me to keep my eye on the prize but not to ignore good opportunities should they present themselves. Dr. Li has generously given me a research project to hone my data analysis and software skills. Together, they have given me a better idea of how I might put my MPH to use.
I would also like to thank Justin Ingels and Professor Kelly Dyers for teaching me two of my favorite courses at UGA. If you have a chance to take a course with either, I cannot recommend doing so enough! They keep class interesting, and you learn so much!
I will hopefully attend medical school after potentially taking a gap year abroad to pursue research and study opportunities in translational medicine, applied epidemiology in global health, and health systems development.
“I would like to influence global health policy through an equity platform. A Master of Public Health degree will complement my pre-medical undergraduate degree by providing me a more holistic conceptualization of health care, from discoveries at the bench to population-level interventions”
– Jessica Ho