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Profiles in Public Health

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Chelsea Lutz

MPH, Epidemiology

1. In one sentence, what is public health to you?

Public health is the multidimensional integration of a broad spectrum of scientific disciplines for the betterment of human health and quality of life.

2. What inspired you to study to public health?

I am extremely passionate about the biological and social aspects of disease, especially among underprivileged and displaced populations. The human impact on disease, and in turn the impact diseases have on both individuals and global populations, has always been of great interest to me. Since taking a course entitled “History and Evolution of Infectious Diseases” as an undergraduate, I have wanted to further study these interactions, as well as their social, economic, and political implications. As a physical anthropologist, I thought I wanted to apply this knowledge to historical populations and study diseases present in archaeological remains, but my time as an intern at the Florida Museum of Natural History proved otherwise. Working with remains all day and having no interaction with a living population was extremely unsatisfying; after several meetings with advisors I realized that in order to enjoy what I was studying, I needed to be involved with a contemporary population that could still experience growth and change. Working towards an integration of anthropology and microbiological sciences is one of my ultimate goals, something I knew the interdisciplinary approach of public health would facilitate.

3. What has been the single most rewarding experience of your career/studies so far?

The chance to expand my interests and collaborate with a team comprised of scientists from several disciplines working towards one question has been the most rewarding experience of my studies so far. Vector-borne diseases impact poorer populations at an alarmingly disproportionate rate than those of more affluent nations. I have had the privilege of working with one of my professors on a research project that closely aligns with these interests, but from an approach I had never considered. This ability to interact and learn from those not in my immediate discipline has proven extremely rewarding.

4. What is the one piece of advice you wish someone had given you when you were starting out in public health?

I started my studies in public health with a bit of tunnel vision. I wish someone had told me to be more flexible in my planning and to be more open to opportunities not in my immediate interests.

5. What do you think is the biggest challenge that the public health field should be focusing on?

Public health should stress working towards bridging the gaps among global populations. Global health disparities arise from lack of funding, education, opportunity, resources, and even sometimes, motivation to make changes.

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