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Profiles in Public Health

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Gabrielle Gussin

PhD, Disease Prevention, University of California, Irvine- Department of Population Health and Disease Prevention

What does public health mean to you?

To me, “public health” describes a dynamic field that engages people from many different disciplines to understand, address, and intervene on the complex drivers of human health and disease.

What inspired you to study public health?

I have always had a passion for both science and puzzles – questioning how different pieces work together as part of a system. As an undergraduate, I studied biology and envisioned myself pursuing a career in medicine. I didn’t really know about careers in public health. During my Master’s training, I fell in love with infectious diseases research while working on a project that examined host-microbiome interactions during influenza infection. Although I was accepted to attend medical school the next year, I decided to gain more experience in infectious diseases research and was thrilled to be offered a position as a clinical research coordinator. In this role, I was excited to collaborate on a daily basis with a multidisciplinary team of infectious disease experts, epidemiologists, and public health stakeholders on a number of projects aimed at the prevention of healthcare-associated infections. This work inspired me to pursue doctoral training in public health and study the epidemiology and prevention of infectious diseases in healthcare settings and vulnerable populations.

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

The most rewarding experience of my career so far has been engaging with local nursing homes for infection prevention and quality improvement initiatives. Our team at UC Irvine has been activated as the COVID-19 Prevention Team for Orange County, California nursing homes. In this role, we support local nursing homes by providing education, training, and guidance to prevent COVID-19 among staff and residents. Nursing homes provide care for elderly residents and individuals with complex medical needs, putting them at high risk for poor outcomes due to infection. Contributing to infection prevention in this setting has been incredibly rewarding, although there is still a lot of work to be done!

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing public health today?

While there are many significant public health challenges, I am most concerned about the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance. Infections caused by drug-resistant organisms are increasingly difficult to treat, posing a major threat to global health and patient safety. This is a multifaceted problem that calls for multimodal interventions and prevention strategies.

What advice would you offer someone who is thinking about a career in public health?

Follow your passion! There are so many ways to contribute to public health research and practice. Read about topics that interest you and introduce yourself to experts in that field. Think about what will make you excited to go to work each day. It may be helpful to seek an internship at your local public health department or at an academic university to explore career options, gain experience, and narrow your interests.

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