Profiles in Public Health


Katie Overbey

PhD, Environmental Health – Exposure Sciences and Environmental Epidemiology

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

Bringing multiple people, talents, and fields together in order to protect and improve health.

2. What inspired you to study public health?

I had always been interested in health and medicine, but wasn’t interested in becoming a doctor. Public health was the perfect fit for me and the interdisciplinary nature of the field is really what motivated me to study public health. Public health encompasses so many things and I love being able to work on diverse projects with people from a whole range of backgrounds.

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

The summer before I started by PhD, I taught a group of gifted high schoolers epidemiology as part of a summer program. At the time, I still hadn’t formally taken an epidemiology course, had never planned a class, and had never been solely responsible for teaching a class. Despite all of this, I managed to pull the class off and I learned so much about teaching (and epidemiology) in the process. Watching the students tackle new concepts and seeing the material really click was amazing. I was so inspired by their interest in the field and really enjoyed the opportunity to introduce younger students to public health.

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

Take advantage of how interdisciplinary the field is and realize there are a lot of ways to end up in the same place.

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

I may be a bit biased as an environmental scientist, but the threats that climate change poses to health are likely greater than any challenge that we have ever had to tackle before. Developing strategies to address the myriad of health issues stemming from global climate change will be crucial to protecting public health in the future.

Find an Academic Program in Environmental Health, TIPH