Category Archives: #IamEmoryEPI

2nd Year MPH: Meredith Dixon

Category : #IamEmoryEPI

For this week’s #IamEmoryEpi spotlight, we met up with Meredith Dixon!

Tell us a little bit about your academic history:

I obtained my BA degree in biology (with a psychology minor) from Texas A&M University in 2003 and worked in academic scientific research labs after graduation.

What are your primary research interests?

My primary research interests include epidemiologic methods, maternal/child health, and social determinants of health.

What are you looking forward to this Spring Semester?

I am really looking forward to finishing my thesis and to graduation! I am also excited about moving into the city to shorten my commute.

Are there any exciting projects or experiences you are involved in right now?

I am working with some thoracic surgeons through Emory’s Health Services Research Center. We are analyzing patient reported outcomes in clinical practice, and I am implementing new skills as I learn them in my longitudinal data analysis class. For my thesis, I am looking at postpartum maternal mental health outcomes in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

What is your favorite part about earning your MPH at Rollins?

My favorite part about earning my MPH at Emory has been the welcoming, collaborative environment, both among the faculty and among the students.

What advice do you have for 1st year MPH students?

Get to know as many faculty members as possible; they are all wonderful! Also, don’t forget to download and save all of your class slides and notes before they disappear off of Canvas.

What books are you currently reading, or what podcasts are you currently listening to?

I recently finished reading ‘Just Mercy’ by Bryan Stevenson and ‘Talking to Strangers’ by Malcolm Gladwell, both of which I really enjoyed. I am now reading ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ by David Grann. I also like the ‘Wait Wait ….Don’t Tell Me!’ podcast.

What are three fun facts that you want people to know about you?

  1. I have lived in Switzerland (for 3 years) and in France (for 10 months).
  2. I am a mother to three school-aged children – 2 girls and a boy.
  3. I love snow skiing and wish Atlanta were closer to the mountains.

1st Year MSPH: Mitch Lee

Category : #IamEmoryEPI

For this week’s #IamEmoryEpi spotlight, we met up with Mitch Lee!

Tell us a little bit about your academic history:

I earned my BS in Biology in 2017 from Duke University, where I studied genetic toggling and oscillations in E.coli. I then worked at the NIH for two years as a postbac fellow studying Legionella virulence mechanisms and pathogenesis before coming to Emory to earn my MSPH in epidemiology.

What are your primary research interests?

My primary research interest is applying molecular epidemiology toward improving technologies that use genetic data and/or biomarkers to diagnose or predict diseases earlier, faster, and more accurately. I especially want to learn how to incorporate (caution: buzzwords incoming!) ~machine learning~ and big data science into that pursuit.

What are you looking forward to this Spring Semester?

Thinking of big-picture goals, I’m most looking forward to finalizing plans for a summer APE and finding a thesis project and advisor related to my interests. Thinking of day-to-day endeavors, I’m most looking forward to steadily (if slowly) improving my data science and programming skills, particularly with R. Beyond schooling and career-building, I’m looking forward to exploring Atlanta more with my friends!

Are there any exciting projects that you are currently working on?

I’ve been working lately to help prepare a manuscript I contributed to at the NIH—seeing the final product take form has been so rewarding!

What is your favorite part about earning your MSPH at Rollins?

My favorite aspect of earning my MSPH at Emory is the uniquely open access it provides to so many public health entities—local, national, and international— that turn to Rollins as a source of expertise, eager students, and skilled workers. On top of that, I get to study and work with bright, talented, and motivated students who elevate my performance.

What advice do you have for people who may be interested in getting their MSPH?

Presentation skills are so important to hone, so find someone who’s known for giving great presentations and study how they manage to be clear, compelling, and efficient. Then, learn to do what they do. Along the way, find people who will constructively tell you how to improve your presentation skills. Their input will help you get better, faster, and more confident.

What books are you currently reading, or what podcasts are you currently listening to?

I enjoy science fiction—it’s a great escape that (mostly) doesn’t allow for lazy thinking. So I’ve been burning through a few novels recently. I finally managed to finish Frank Herbert’s Dune and Andy Weir’s The Martian through some far-too-late-at-night binges. Next up is finishing Rebecca’s Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks for Rollins’s new Epicurious book club sponsored by Dr. Guest!

What are three fun facts that you want people to know about you?

  1. I’m a certified open-water scuba diver with 35+ dives on record.
  2. I’ve lived in 7 cities across 5 states.
  3. I shook Mark Cuban’s hand once

2nd Year MPH: Abigail Ruths

Category : #IamEmoryEPI

For this week’s #IamEmoryEpi spotlight, we met up with Abigail Ruths!

Tell us a little bit about your academic history:

I graduated in 2017 from Penn State University with a B.S. in Biobehavioral Health

What are your primary research interests?

My primary interests are in Immigrant and Refugee Health, Humanitarian Emergencies/Disaster Response, Field Epidemiology, and Social Epidemiology

What are you looking forward to this Spring Semester?

I am looking forward to continuing to work at CDC in the Immigrant, Refugee, and Migrant Health Branch. I am also looking forward to staying involved with community events through SORT.

Are there any exciting projects or experiences you are involved in right now?

Yeah– my thesis!!

What is your favorite part about earning your MPH at Rollins?

I have appreciated the opportunity to take a variety of elective classes that have reinforced my interests and given me awesome hands-on/interactive experiences. I also love Atlanta and think it is a very underrated city!

What advice do you have for 1st year MPH students?

Some progress is better than no progress. Imposter syndrome is real, and you deserve to be here. Send the email. Sleep!!

What books are you currently reading, or what podcasts are you currently listening to?

I am very slowly reading about six books but I’ll mention two: “This Land Is Our Land: An Immigrant’s Manifesto” by Suketu Mehta, and rereading “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” by… well, you know.

What are three fun facts that you want people to know about you?

  1. I was on the powerlifting team in undergrad.
  2. I have an avocado intolerance 🙁
  3. I can (and have) spent several hours on Google Maps/Earth dropping myself on the map and looking around .

1st Year MPH: Clayton Carmon

Category : #IamEmoryEPI

For this week’s #IamEmoryEpi spotlight, we met up with Clayton Carmon!

Tell us a little bit about your academic history:

I completed my Bachelor’s Degree at Texas A&M University in Public Health and graduated in May of 2019. I started at A&M in 2008 but left in 2009 to figure out what I really wanted to do and returned to school in 2015 after spending time working for a nonprofit in Haiti.

What are your primary research interests?

I am primarily interested in emerging infectious diseases; specifically, antimicrobial resistance and hospital-acquired infections. But I am an infectious disease nerd and would enjoy research in just about any avenue therein. It’s so hard to choose only one thing to focus on!

What are you looking forward to this Spring Semester?

I am really looking forward to finding a thesis topic and continuing my REAL job at CDC. I am definitely someone who enjoys school and learning, so I am also looking forward to my courses and growing my knowledge of public health and epidemiology. I would be lying if I didn’t say that I’m looking forward to continuing to develop my relationships with my incredible peers and professors here at Rollins.

Are there any exciting projects that you are currently working on?

I am currently in the beginning stages of a project at my REAL job to analyze the trends over time of antimicrobial susceptibility for a specific pathogen of concern in healthcare settings. Since antimicrobial resistance is a significant public health challenge and concern, I am excited to see what trends exist in surveillance data and hopefully find out what changes, if any, are occurring in antimicrobial susceptibility for this pathogen.

What is your favorite part about earning your MPH at Rollins?

The incredibly diverse group of people that I get to walk this journey with. The incredibly wide-ranging backgrounds of my fellow students are inspiring and motivating. The education I receive from my peers is just as important and valuable as the education I receive in my classes.

What advice do you have for people who may be interested in getting their MPH?

I would say that it is essential to know where you want to end up in life and what you can gain and learn by getting an MPH. I took several years to really learn about myself and my goals. That time away from school, experiencing the real world, was invaluable in shaping the path I eventually decided to take. Don’t ever feel like you have to follow a predetermined or societally acceptable path to achieve your goals, take some time to get to know yourself before committing to something.

What books are you currently reading, or what podcasts are you currently listening to?

At the moment, I am not reading anything. Still, the last book I did read was called “The American Plague: The Untold Story of Yellow Fever, the Epidemic That Shaped Our History,” and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves history and infectious diseases.

What are three fun facts that you want people to know about you?

  1. I am a huge history nerd, especially WWII history; in fact, I almost pursued a degree in history.
  2. I am a first-generation Graduate student, but I am a second-generation Aggie (what we who went to A&M are called), needless to say to anyone who has seen me on campus, I am a diehard A&M fan.
  3. I am a huge country music fan, play me some George Jones, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, George Strait, Reba (the list goes on), and I’m a happy camper, really any classic country is my jam.

2nd Year MPH: Yesenia Ramirez

Category : #IamEmoryEPI

For this week’s special edition of #IamEmoryEpi, we met up with recent Women of Excellence Award recipient Yesenia Ramirez!

Tell us a little bit about your academic history:

I graduated from Wellesley College in 2015 and double majored in Chemistry and Italian Studies. After graduation, I worked as a research assistant for the child and family health department of the city of Chicago, then became a clinical research coordinator for the asthma and immunology department for a local hospital. 

What are your primary research interests?

My research interests include social epidemiology and issues affecting maternal and child populations (so most things), which led me to pursue the maternal and child health (MCH) certificate here at Rollins. I am currently researching how immigration policy has affected birth outcomes among minority populations in Georgia and have been privileged to work on various projects ranging from births defects, maternal mortality, and children and youth with special healthcare needs in my time here.

Are there any exciting projects or experiences you are involved in right now?

I am currently the principal investigator on a research project funded by a Health Innovation Student (HIP) seed grant with an interdisciplinary team of students across Emory, Georgia State University (GSU), and Georgia Tech, working with Embrace-Friends of Refugees to improve their pregnancy curriculum. Our team has filmed culturally-tailored videos on the late and postpartum stages of pregnancy focusing on topics like labor induction, infant care, and postpartum depression. Recently, our team was invited to the 2020 Association for Maternal and Child Health Programming (AMCHP) conference to present our work. Additionally, I work as an intern with the birth defects branch at the CDC and help manage data for the National Birth Defects Prevention Study.

Tell us about the Women of Excellence Award

The Woman of Excellence Awards are presented by the Center for Women at Emory and are awarded based on nominations submitted by the Emory community. There are eight distinct categories and I was nominated by fellow peers to receive the Student Leadership Award. They will be having a ceremony March 5th at 6:30pm and anyone can RSVP.

What are you receiving the award for?

I am receiving the Student Leadership Award for my work with Embrace– Friends of Refugee as well as other leadership endeavors, including being the co-president of Health Organizations for Latin America (HOLA) and involvement with local grassroots organizations providing assistance and advocacy for immigrant populations here in Atlanta.

What are you most excited about for receiving this prestigious award?

I am mostly excited to be able to spread the word and bring attention to the great work being done by Embrace- Friends of Refugees. They have amazing programs and could always benefit from Emory-Rollins Student volunteers.

What are three fun facts that you want people to know about you?

  1. I am an art appreciator and love learning about new artists.
  2. I speak three languages.
  3. I am on a quest to learn how to make vegetarian/vegan Mexican dishes.

#CapstoneChronicles

Category : #IamEmoryEPI

For the first installment of #CapstoneChronicles, I spoke with four of the five members of the Epidemiology Department’s inaugural capstone cohort about their experiences so far, early on in the project process. I will be checking in with them periodically over the next few weeks, profiling individuals and the class as a whole, so stay tuned to hear more about their perspectives as the project unfolds!  


Student Profiles

AJ Montero is a 2nd year EPI MPH student who studied Microbiology at the University of Florida before coming to Rollins. 

Phoenix Tran is a second year EPI MPH student who also studied Microbiology during her undergraduate degree at the University of Georgia. 

Why did you decide to pursue a capstone over a thesis?

Phoenix: I did a thesis at the end of undergrad, so this time I wanted to have a more hands-on experience working with an organization and help them to solve problems.

AJ: I was applying for medical school this past summer and got delayed on the thesis process, and given the time constraints I decided it would not be realistic to continue down that road. Along with my other priorities, I thought I would be able to contribute more meaningfully to a collaborative process and that the capstone would be more fulfilling and beneficial for my long-term goals.

Can you briefly describe the organization you’re partnering with and how you get to use your epi skills and experience to benefit the organization through this project.

AJ: We are working with Resilient Georgia, which is a new organization seeking to integrate behavioral care for children in Georgia and create a safety net for people who typically fall through the cracks in social services. They want to use data on childhood trauma to see which adverse childhood experiences are associated with adverse outcomes later in life to inform future public health initiatives.

Phoenix: We will be doing a lot of data cleaning using SAS and R, and we are planning to do some spatial analysis as well. Specifically, we will be working with data regarding children who are currently in, or have been in, the foster care system. Once we become more familiar with the available data and relevant literature, we will identify other factors of interest to conduct a stratified analysis. What is most exciting about this project is that we get to decide the methods we are going to use for the analyses ourselves. We are still in the planning phases so we have not yet decided which skills, exactly, we will be using.

Reflections from the class

AJ Montero, Phoenix Tran, Frances Neunuebel, Lester Primero

What do you like most about the structure of the capstone process?

  • The project has been really collaborative. Having multiple people from different backgrounds working together to resolve issues has been really enjoyable.
  • Another really positive element is that, by virtue of working on a team, we keep each other accountable. We can keep each other on track, and help each other if someone is struggling with something.
  • There is a real emphasis on thoughtful planning – we have an overall vision for what we want the project to accomplish and then we get to explore different avenues for getting there. We started with a very broad topic initially, and each week we iteratively narrow our focus. 

What does a typical day in your class look like? Or a typical week, in terms of the workload?

  • We have class once a week from 1 to 4pm, and then our group meets outside of class for a few hours a week to work on current action items and to prepare for the upcoming week’s meeting.
  • The first few classes were mainly brainstorming sessions. And now we have shifted more to talking about different methods we may want to use in our analysis later. Last week, for example, we were working on drafting some initial project aims and objectives.
  • In general, the class itself is very exploratory and discussion-driven. We spend a lot of time reading papers on related topics, looking at background research, and thinking about how we may want to shape the project based on methodologies from previous studies. 

Is there anything you wish you had known before starting the capstone that would have been helpful for you?

  • None of us fully understood the scope of this project when we first started, and how many stakeholders would be interested in hearing the results. We met with representatives from Resilient Georgia and they told us that our project report is going to be presented to a lot of big organizations, including educations and training groups, the Department of Juvenile Justice, CHOA, the Department of Education, and a former CDC Director. It may sound a little intimidating at first, but we are all very excited about the potential for our project to impact a wide range of organizations working on an important public health issue. 
  • I don’t believe we entirely realized how much agency and purpose we would have in this project before it began, and that has been a very interesting and positive part of this process.

What are you looking forward to doing throughout the rest of the process?

  • We are excited to see how we can use our past experiences and experiences at Emory and apply them directly to a real-world problem.
  • In a lot of our Epi classes, we have worked with very curated datasets, so this is one of our first experiences working with publicly available data and managing all of its challenges.

In the next edition of #CapstoneChronicles, we will be discussing how the cohort’s relationship with their partner organization has evolved, updates on their preliminary data analysis, and their strategies for working through challenges that arise. Stay tuned!


1st Year MPH: Michael Kozuch

Category : #IamEmoryEPI

For this week’s #IamEmoryEpi spotlight, we met up with Michael Kozuch!

Tell us a little bit about your academic history:

I received my bachelors of science in neurobiology at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. I also spent considerable time in a medical entomology lab studying tick- and mosquito-borne disease.

What are your primary research interests?

I really want to focus in the realm of dementia research. Specifically, I would like to work with individuals to improve modifiable risk factors for Alzheimer’s Disease.

What are you looking forward to this Spring Semester?

I’m really enjoying the increased expectations placed on students to pursue their own interests through their class choices. I’m really looking forward to meeting so many new professors through my substantive courses in CVD Epi, Molecular Epi, and Human Genome Epi.

Are there any exciting projects that you are currently working on?

I am writing a health promotion grant on campus to facilitate bicycle commuting as a health-oriented mode of transportation. This grant will supplement ongoing work to educate and advocate for greater bicycle safety on campus and throughout Atlanta.

What is your favorite part about earning your MPH at Rollins?

I enjoy knowing that every person I meet here will challenge me to be my best self.

What advice do you have for people who may be interested in getting their MPH?

Cultivate your driving motivation for public health early on, but be willing to step outside your comfort zone to learn about new and exciting developments in public health.

What books are you currently reading, or what podcasts are you currently listening to?

I consume 1-2 hours of podcasts daily (on 1.5-2x speed!) covering everything from economics, to politics, to scientific research. I can heartily recommend starting your day with Judy Woodruff on the podcast version of PBS Newshour. I also enjoy hearing my past co-workers on the Dementia Matters podcast from the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.

What are three fun facts that you want people to know about you?

  1. I have a wonderful little 48 lb husky named Phillip who likes to run and bike with me.
  2. My significant other and I both committed to study at Rollins together and moved here from Wisconsin.
  3. My favorite eustress is a long, quiet bike ride through some form of remote wilderness.

What’s in a Capstone?

Category : #IamEmoryEPI

As part of an ongoing #IamEmoryEPI segment this semester, Confounder teammate Emma Butturini will be following the inaugural cohort of student’s in this year’s Epidemiology MPH Capstone Project, led by Dr. Cecile Janssens.

Over the last several years, department leadership have been developing an optional alternative to the thesis requirement for MPH students – focused on creating a structured, collaborative environment for investigating real-world challenges for organizations that lack epidemiology resources and skillsets.

So far, students in the Capstone program are off to an exciting start – engaging with stakeholders, creating detailed project plans, and facing challenges unique to applied public health contexts. 

Check in with #IamEmoryEPI every other week through April for updates on the Capstone team’s progress and their experience along the way!


2nd Year MPH: Gerard Portela

Category : #IamEmoryEPI

For this week’s #IamEmoryEpi spotlight, we met up with Gerard Portela!

Tell us a little bit about your academic history:

I studied psychology at Rice University in Houston, TX and graduated in 2016.

What are your primary research interests?

I am primarily interested in infectious disease epidemiology. Specifically, I am interested in infectious disease dynamics and spatial dependence of infectious diseases.

What are you looking forward to this Spring Semester?

I’m looking forward to finishing my thesis, graduation in May, and figuring out plans for next year. I’m also really looking forward to visiting Houston for the rodeo!

Are there any exciting projects or experiences you are involved in right now?

My main focus has been my thesis on the surveillance of Staph aureus in Atlanta communities. I am looking at individual and neighborhood factors associated with these infections. I am also working on a project measuring mental health outcomes related to menstruation practices in women in rural India.

What is your favorite part about earning your MPH at Rollins?

I’ve really enjoyed being able to get involved in a variety of projects ranging from surveillance to WASH to infectious disease.

What advice do you have for 1st year MPH students?

Take the time and put in the work to find a thesis you are really interested in and want to work on. It helps a lot!

What books are you currently reading, or what podcasts are you currently listening to?

I am currently reading ‘The Outsider’ by Stephen King. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Rumble with Michael Moore for all things politics.

What are three fun facts that you want people to know about you?

  1. I keep a spread sheet of every restaurant, coffee shop, and bar I have been to and want to go to in Atlanta with what to try at each.
  2. I’ve seen every movie nominated for best picture in the last 5 years.
  3. I lived in NH for 12 years, but have never been to Canada.

1st Year MPH: Allie Tuttle

Category : #IamEmoryEPI

For this week’s #IamEmoryEpi spotlight, we met up with Allie Tuttle!

Tell us a little bit about your academic history:

I went to Northwestern University where I majored in Biological Sciences and minored in Business Institutions.

What are your primary research interests?

I’m interested in cancer epidemiology, specifically the genetic and molecular side of the disease, which is why I’m pursuing the Genetic and Molecular Epidemiology certificate!

What were you up this this past summer?

This past summer I wrapped up my job at a biotech start-up called Tempus where I worked on the clinical data team. I did a lot of different things while I was there, but one of the coolest projects I was involved with was creating reports for “live” cancer patients currently receiving treatment for their disease. We worked with other teams to compile & analyze individual patient’s specific genetic mutations, prior treatments, and tumor characteristics. Based on that info we identified therapies they were most likely to respond to, and provided this information to their oncologists to inform future treatment decisions. My experience at that company is what inspired me to pursue my MPH at Rollins.

What is your favorite part about earning your MPH at Rollins?

It’s been said before but I’ll say it again- the people! Emory has such a supportive environment. Everyone is incredibly welcoming and friendly, and there’s just a feeling that everyone from your peers to your professors really want to see you succeed.

What advice do you have for people who may be interested in getting their MPH?

Go for it!! I was debating if getting my MPH was the right decision up until I got here in August, but everything I’ve experienced since being at Emory has reassured me that it was!

What books are you currently reading, or what podcasts are you currently listening to?

I usually listen to The Daily from NYT every morning to stay up on general happenings & get an in-depth look at one story in the headlines that I may know nothing about (they recently did a series on the vaping epidemic- super interesting for epi people!) I’ve also started listening to a new podcast from NPR called Short Wave- it’s super short (10-15 mins) and covers a wide variety of topics that generally fall under the umbrella of “science.”

What are three fun facts that you want people to know about you?

  1. I’m obsessed with the Tiny Doors around Atlanta- I will find them all before I graduate
  2. In college I had pet rats named Hodor & Scabbers
  3. I played basketball at Northwestern (go ‘cats)