I had long been committed to making sure people had equal access to different things, and I knew that was a real challenge in the United States. But I had never really studied that challenge until I got to college, when I was formally introduced to the concept of public health.
The summer before my freshman year of college, I participated in a program for health scholars—those interested in health-focused careers. We took courses in biology, calculus, chemistry, and public health.
Bill Jenkins, the late Tuskegee epidemiologist and UNC and Morehouse professor, was our instructor for public health. I remember soaking up everything he said.
Before that class, I had known health was important—of course. I had known there were disparities in its delivery, but I didn’t know that there was a field dedicated to its study. Once I had a name for it, I knew it would be a focus of my career.
That program gave me the opportunity to understand numerous aspects of healthcare professions, from professionals in the field. Our professors were from Morehouse and Spelman—alumni and local health professionals who shared with us what it was like to go through med school or their professional programs.
That insight was invaluable for so many of us, and inspired us to pursue our own paths in healthcare. One of my peers from the program is a pharmacist, and another is pursuing a doctorate in public health—just to name a couple.
The perspective our instructors provided has informed my work as a statistician, too. Everyone says “behind the data, there’s people.” Though my training and focus is on the numbers, I’ve always been interested in the stories and context behind them. I think you have to be to do good work.