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Profiles in Public Health

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Christopher Hopkins

MPH, Epidemiology, Certificate in Biosecurity and Disaster Preparedness, Saint Louis University College for Public Health and Social Justice

In one sentence, what is public health to you?

I see public health as an interdisciplinary force that aims to improve health and wellness by building up community resources thereby improving the overall health of the nation.

What inspired you to study public health?

“There were many significant moments that guided me to my interest in public health. It was not until I visited a rural Nicaraguan health clinic in 2014 for a community health internship, that I began to seriously consider public health as a career opportunity. Having grown up in a bilingual household, I have always been curious about how I could leverage my Spanish speaking abilities with my love for biology. I saw this as an excellent opportunity to explore the world of global health! As an undergraduate with no tangible medical skills other than basic CPR training, I initially felt limited with how I could make a difference in such an impoverished community. Through the support of local health care workers and international medical volunteers – I was quickly given the opportunity to assist with translation and health education. It was at this moment that I realized that public health could be the right fit for me.

Since 2014, I found that I was particularly passionate about infectious diseases, big data, and how I could help affect big change. This has led me to where I am now, focusing on epidemiology”

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

The single most rewarding experience of my studies thus far was the process of actually realizing public health was for me. Perhaps this large period could be distilled down to the completion of my first semester of graduate school. I am extremely grateful to have met so many passionate, intelligent, and supportive people at SLU. After graduating from my undergraduate university, I was looking for a Master’s program that would allow me to grow, not only as a professional but as a person. Being surrounded by like-minded and actively inquisitive classmates has given me the opportunity I was seeking. Building these new relationships with classmates and learning how to seek advice from faculty mentors has been an almost serendipitous experience, so I am learning not to take for granted these moments!

Advice:

I wish that someone had introduced public health to me sooner! Public health is an amalgamation of many disciplines but they all have to do with the general health and wellness of the public. Going into graduate school, I had a general idea of the topics that I was interested in, but it did take some time to settle in. I wish I had sought out people who were in the field and asked them more questions about their role within public health. I do think, however, that as more undergraduate programs adopt public health programs, students will be exposed at earlier points in their studies.

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

I believe the biggest challenge for public health, at this moment, is dealing with the repercussions of COVID-19. It can be argued that before the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing and quarantining were not well-known practices, at least at the scale which we’ve seen over the past several months. These are unprecedented times, in which changes to daily activities are impacting millions of people worldwide. There are significant repercussions that are associated with these stay-at-home orders and improving the procedures for how “help” is provided is drastically needed, especially for low and middle-income countries.

Find an Academic Program in Biosecurity and Disaster Prepardness, Epidemiology, TIPH Student Ambassador