Category Archives: #WeAreEmoryEPI

Rollins Professor: Lauren McCullough

Category : #WeAreEmoryEPI

For this week’s #IamEmoryEPI, we caught up with Dr. Lauren McCullough!

Tell us where you went to school:

I received my BA from Vanderbilt, my MSPH from Meharry Medical College, and my PhD from UNC Chapel Hill.

What are your primary research interests?

I am interested in molecular epidemiology of obesity as it relates to cancer progression and outcomes and multi-level drivers of disparities in breast cancer outcomes. 

What did you do this past summer?

At work: I organized my research projects, as well as on-boarded new staff and trainees. 

At home: Baseball….everyday…..all day…

How did you find the research that you are currently conducting?

I have a personal connection to cancer, and my undergraduate training in influenced my decision to study molecular epidemiology. Being raised in a primarily African-American community and seeing first-hand disparities in all aspects of life (i.e. health, housing, income) strongly influences the questions I ask and populations I serve. 

What is your favorite part about being at Emory?

Hands down my trainees. We work hard, we learn from each other, we laugh together. They really are an extension of my family. Couldn’t ask for more!

Do you have any advice for MPH students?

Network. The market is competitive; the more you can get to know people (professors, professionals, peers) the better your odds of landing a job or successfully competing for graduate/professional school

What are three fun facts about yourself?

  1. I (will soon) have 3 boys, so my house is live — all the time!
  2. For 12 years I was a competitive baton twirler (3 state titles [GA] and 2 national titles). 
  3. If I wasn’t an epidemiologist I’d probably be a financial adviser. 

PhD Student: Katie Ross

Category : #WeAreEmoryEPI

For this week’s #IamEmoryEPI, we caught up PhD student Katie Ross!

Tell us where you went to school:

I did my undergrad in Public Health from the University of Miami in 2015. I got my MPH in Epi from RSPH in 2017, and I am now a PhD student (still in Epi!).

What are your primary research interests?

I am interested in health services research and social epidemiology. I work with Dr. Rachel Patzer on improving access to transplantation for patients with end-organ failure in the United States.

What did you do this past summer?

I spent most of the summer traveling to conferences and working on my dissertation. However, I did get to spend two weeks in Banff, which rocked!

You recently were awarded the Anoopa Sharma Award! Can you tell us a little bit about that?

The Anoopa Sharma Award for Excellence in Epidemiologic Research is given in honor of Anoopa Sharma, a PhD student in the Epidemiology department who passed away in the first year of her program. You can find out more about Anoopa and her legacy here:

What is your favorite part about your PhD program at Emory?

Everyone – including faculty, fellow students, and the department – is dedicated to helping each other and creating a supportive environment.

Do you have any advice for future PhD students?

When choosing an advisor, look for someone who is kind, uplifting, and willing to mentor you as both a scholar and a person. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or admit you don’t know something. Take care of yourself – you can’t pour from an empty cup!

What are three fun facts about yourself?

  1. I moved 9 times before I graduated from high school (Air Force brat)
  2. I got scuba certified in college and try to go as often as possible. 
  3. Last year, I adopted a cat who turned out to be a dog (plays fetch, greets us at the door, loves belly rubs)

RSGA Epi Reps: Michelle McKinlay & Nathan Quan

Category : #WeAreEmoryEPI

For this week’s #IamEmoryEPI, we caught up with your Rollins Student Government (RSGA) department representatives: Michelle McKinlay and Nathan Quan! 

Tell us about your research interests:

Michelle: My primary research interest is in social epidemiology, specifically focusing on the social determinants of health in vulnerable populations.

Nathan: I am interested in social epidemiology and the social determinants of health, specifically racial and ethnic discrimination and segregation.

What were you up to this summer?

Michelle: I spent my summer in Southern California working for Project Horseshoe Farm, a community health nonprofit organization, establishing the nonprofit’s pilot expansion site in Pomona, CA. My projects consisted of building community partnerships, developing the structure for a gap-year fellowship, and creating a protocol for future data collection, all in preparation for me to serve as the Site Director after graduation.

Nathan: As a Region IV Public Health Training Center Pathways to Practice Scholar based at the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, I partnered with the Louisville Health Advisory Board (LHAB) to expand community-wide efforts to target efforts for suicide prevention using local suicide data. I presented my findings to LHAB, expressed a clear vision for the future research in Louisville regarding suicide prevention at a population health level, and laid groundwork to develop a suicide fatality review by the end of 2019 to elucidate intervention strategies unique to Louisville.

Tell us about your role as Epi Reps?

We really enjoyed the opportunity to get to know students and staff in the department better. Perhaps more importantly, we took pride in acting as the liaison for the Epi student body to the administration. This led to various improvements in the department and to Rollins as a whole!

What are your priorities as Epi Reps this year?

One priority this year is to increase student and staff engagement at our Epi events. Another is to help bridge the gap between the EPI and GH departments for our GLEPI students. We really want to help implement new ideas that our fellow students have – please reach out to us if you have any!

When are elections for the new Epi Reps?

RSGA elections for departmental representatives will be held in early November (keep an eye out for more information in October!). Students who want to be more involved not only in the department but at Rollins as a whole, who care about bringing students and staff together, who enjoy planning and putting on events, and students with creative new ideas should run for Epi Rep! As elections approach, we will be holding informal “Coffee Chats” with students who are interested in learning more about the role!

New EPI Social Media Team: Haley Adrian & Jazib Gohar

Category : #WeAreEmoryEPI

The Confounder is excited to announce our new Social Media Team: 2nd year students Haley Adrian (Instagram: @rollinsepilife) and Jazib Gohar (Twitter: @EmoryEPI)!

This week, we sat down with the new team to learn about their interest in epidemiology, social media, and much more! 

What makes you interested in social media and how does epidemiology fit into that interest?

  • Haley: I am thrilled to be representing the Department of Epidemiology on Instagram. I have always had an interest in using social media as a platform for general communication, information sharing, and media creation. On top of running a few personal Instagram accounts, I also played a role in content creation for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Learn the Signs. Act Early. Program, which I was a Health Communication and Program Evaluation Assistant.
  • Jazib: I am so excited to be representing the Epidemiology Department on Twitter. I’ve always loved using Twitter for so many different reasons, spanning from news or current events, to sports scores and updates, to academic dialogue and conversation. I think Twitter has so much untapped potential with peers of our age group, particularly in scholarly engagement. I’m excited to explore academic Twitter and engage my peers with our the @EmoryEPI account!

Tell us about your research interests and career goals.

  • Haley: Primarily, my career interest lies in healthcare consulting. I had the privilege of working as a Healthcare Finance Intern with Dixon Hughes Goodman (DHG) this summer, and plan to pursue a career with the firm during the school year and after graduation. Throughout this summer, I was responsible for senior living clients’ market research, penetration rate databases for independent living and assisted living communities, and our actuarial study database. Tangibles produced during my internship included client market area analyses used for our feasibility studies, a regional graphic of the United States showing penetration rate distribution among of clients’ communities, a cleaned and revamped actuarial study database used for internal purposes, and a capstone presentation summarizing both my experience for the firm and Risk Capability (a firm industry point-of-view). My experience with DHG confirmed my interest in the industry, as well as my career plan.
  • Jazib: My career interests revolve around Cancer Epidemiology, specifically in the field of Social Epigenomics. I am interested in understanding the role that social factors, such as race, socioeconomic status, and diet, play in cancer outcomes by studying their association with DNA methylation in malignant tumor tissue. I hope to pursue my PhD in Epidemiology after my time at Rollins.

What do you like to do outside of epidemiology?

  • Haley: My personal interests include working out, spending time with my friends and family, and playing with my dog. I love to be outside, travel, and try new foods. 
  • Jazib: Outside of academic interests, I love sports and music. I’m an avid Chicago and Northwestern sports fan, and I often try to attend concerts whenever I have the time! I also enjoy craft beer, and always try to sample flights at local breweries.

Follow Jazib on Twitter @EmoryEPI and Haley on Instagram @rollinsepilife

Jena Black: ADAP Extraordinaire

Category : #WeAreEmoryEPI

To kick off the new semester, the Confounder Team wants to recognize someone at the heart of our work – someone, without whom, the Confounder (and so much more) would never have been possible.

No one encapsulates the slogan #IamEmoryEPI better than our longtime EPI ADAP – Jena Black. As Jena takes up a new position with the Admissions and Student Services Department next week, we wanted to show our appreciation for this tireless student advocate, strategic thinker, and unwavering optimist.

Behind the scenes, Jena has orchestrated countless events and brokered connections that have steadily influenced and improved the department’s academic mission, moving it towards becoming an inclusive, inspired, and engaged community – giving true meaning and purpose to the phrase #IamEmoryEPI.

Jena is living proof to the rest of us that true leadership can have an impact at any level of an organization. This impact is no secret – alumni of this program value Jena’s contributions decades after graduating: she is known for her poignant guidance and her ability to create connections to foster new and long-lasting collaborations. 


From all of us at The Confounder and the EPI Department, thank you Jena for everything you do. We will miss you in the department, and wish you well in your new school-wide role!

Inside APE: Alejandra Alvarez & World Water Relief

Category : #WeAreEmoryEPI GLEPI

This week for #InsideAPE, we sat down with Alejandra Alvarez, rising 2nd year EPI MPH student to talk about her work this summer with San Rafael Verano Ocupado: Art and WASH Summer Camp at World Water Relief (WWR) in San Rafael de Barahona, Dominican Republic.

Tell us about your APE project.

The main goal of my APE is to implement a WASH themed summer camp for the youth in San Rafael.  I am in charge of making lesson plans which include the activities and discussion questions that will engage the youth in WASH topics that directly affect them. For example, one week we talked about pollution in the oceans and rivers and the effect on human health. They were able to discuss the types of pollution they see, how they imagine the pollution can be prevented, and how the pollution affects them because San Rafael sits right on the beach and a river.

WWR also does WASH education and monitoring throughout the school year in other communities in the southwestern region of the Dominican Republic. My other responsibility for the summer is to look through the logs and see how WASH behaviors and attitudes, such as how often school children wash their hands and whether or not a school bathroom has soap, changes throughout the school year.

How did you find your APE project?

I found WWR by looking through an interactive map on the APE website. I knew I wanted to complete a WASH APE and I wanted to work in a Latin American country so the map was very helpful in finding an organization where Rollins students previously completed their APEs. After reaching out to WWR and explaining my previous experience and learning objectives, my site supervisor and I agreed on a summer camp where the youth of the community can learn WASH concepts through fun activities and discussions while also doing art. Dr. Christine Moe also helped guide me through the GFEFA application and work through my objectives and methods.

What has the experience been like so far?

Since I am teaching and living in the small town of San Rafael, a big part of my time has been getting to know the community and seeing my students outside the classroom setting. I’ve had a lot of fun seeing the kids at the beach and river, having them come over and playing with my host family, and picking up trash with me at a community beach clean-up.  I look forward to seeing the youth in and outside the classroom for the rest of the summer.

One happy surprise that came about from the summer camp is that the girls wanted to be part of a group where we would talk about issues that deal with growing up. So far we have talked about the menstrual cycle and feminine hygiene. They are really enthusiastic about the group and gave suggestions for future topics such as how to support friends, healthy relationships, and intimate partner violence. While I enjoy the WASH component of this APE, I am most excited about what comes about from this girls group.

Alejandra Alvarez is a rising 2nd year EPI MPH student with research interests related to infectious disease and waterborne diseases. 

Inside APE: Madison Hayes & World Bank/CSIS

Category : #WeAreEmoryEPI GLEPI

This week for #InsideAPE, we sat down with Madison Hayes, rising 2nd year GLEPI MPH student to talk about her work this summer as a Research Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Global Health Policy Center and Intern at the World Bank Group’s Health/Nutrition/Population division in Washington, DC.

Tell us about your APE project.

This summer, I am splitting time between two organizations, CSIS and the World Bank Group, where I research topics related to global health security. I contribute to the writing of new publications and multimedia through drafting and editing of products including topical analysis, reports, discussion papers, commentaries, and website content.

How did you find your APE project?

I am fortunate to have a supportive former supervisor who not only invited me back to CSIS for the summer but connected me with his colleagues at the World Bank Group. Given the relationship between the two organizations, I was able to negotiate part-time with each.

What has the experience been like so far?

The most interesting aspect of this summer has been the opportunity to work on global health security from two different organizational perspectives—think tank vs. multilateral. Additionally, I am learning an incredible amount on the topic of global financing for outbreak preparedness and response.

Madison Hayes is a rising 2nd year GLEPI MPH student with research interests related to global health security and noncommunicable diseases, under the umbrella of health systems strengthening and capacity building.

Inside APE: Cassie Kersten & CDC Pandemic Influenza Preparedness

Category : #WeAreEmoryEPI GLEPI

This week for #InsideAPE, we sat down with Cassie Kersten, rising 2nd year GLEPI MPH student to talk about her work this summer as Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response ORISE Fellow at the CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, Community Interventions for Infection Control Unit in Atlanta.

Tell us about your APE project.

For my project, I am collaborating with the Division of Adolescent and School Health to examine the presence of policies and procedures in public school districts that would facilitate the implementation of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) in the case of a pandemic. By examining these factors in relation with geographic region, urbanicity, district enrollment size, and socioeconomic status indicators, we hope to identify opportunities for improving pandemic preparedness and response plans in school districts.

How did you find your APE project?

I was hired by this unit during my first year at Rollins as a REAL student to maintain an up-to-date database on school closures and to work on a social media project. Since it was going so well, I decided to talk with my supervisor about the summer and ask if they would be willing to let me continue– which they were!

What has the experience been like so far?

I’ve really enjoyed being at the CDC full-time and getting to experience all the inner workings of the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine as a fellow public health professional. Recently, after there was an Ebola case in Uganda that spread from the DRC, I was able to listen in to a conference call where people on the ground were explaining the situation and all the plans they have ready for response and risk mitigation– which was really interesting! Another time, I was invited to share in “Rabies Cake” and mingle with people working in a few different CDC units to celebrate publication of the June Vital Signs report on rabies.

Cassie Kersten is a rising 2nd year GLEPI MPH student with research interests related to infectious disease epidemiology, health security, and emergency preparedness. She is co-president of the Student Outbreak and Response Team (SORT), through which she works directly with local boards of health and gets to further explore areas of potential research interest. 

Inside APE: Christopher Elmlinger & Tennessee Department of Health

Category : #WeAreEmoryEPI

This week for #InsideAPE, we sat down with Christopher Elmlinger, rising 2nd year GLEPI MPH student to talk about his work this summer with the Office of Health Policy at the Tennessee Department of Health in Nashville, TN.

Tell us about your APE project.

The new Governor of Tennessee’s first executive order requested a “Statement of Rural Impact and Recommendations for Better Serving Rural Tennesseans.” (Not so fun fact-Tennessee currently has the highest rate of hospital closures per capita in the country). The County Health Assessments aim to identify the needs and assets of rural communities in coordination with county health councils and local stakeholders.

My role has primarily been researching and updating the state’s 12 Vital Signs and the associated intervention strategies and policy recommendations that local health councils can pursue. Tennessee’s Vital Signs are a set of 12 metrics selected to measure the pulse of health in Tennessee (examples include preventable hospitalizations, infant mortality, youth obesity, and access to parks and greenways). I finished a memo on Telehealth for the Governor’s office this week and am currently learning REDCap in order to build out an evaluation for the CHA process.

How did you find your APE project?

My APE is part of the Region IV Public Health Training Center: Pathways to Practice Scholar Field Placement Program, which I found at the Emory career fair in February. I love career fairs and always make a point of talking to every table and collecting every interesting flyer. I enjoyed my conversation with the Region IV representatives and I applied for this opening that evening. The career fair definitely gave me a head start since the position did not go out to the Rollins list serve until a week or two later. My advice to incoming students would be to start looking for APE’s early and to be sure to take maximum advantage of the career fair as there are many paid APE’s advertised there in addition to full-time jobs for graduating second-year students.

What has the experience been like so far?

As an EPI student I have been very focused on math, so I was surprised by the amount of research and writing I have had to do in this position.

One thing that I love about this position: I frequently get pulled into different projects, presentations, conferences, or events. Last Friday, I got called into my supervisor’s office and he sent me to a nearby studio to shoot a commercial on the state’s efforts to address the opioid epidemic. I don’t know how much I will actually be featured in the commercial after all of the edits and cuts, but it was really exciting just to participate.

One thing that’s difficult: getting used to a desk job again. At Rollins we are so used to multi-tasking and running around to classes, events, presentations, and our REAL jobs that we forget how hard it can be to sit at a desk and focus on just one task or project for most of the day (even those of us who have already been in the workforce).

Christopher Elmlinger is a rising 2nd year GLEPI MPH student and a member of the Certificate in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies (CHE). His research interests at Rollins include infectious disease (particularly HIV, TB, and NTDs) and Emergency Preparedness & Response.

Inside APE – Summer #IamEmoryEPI highlights

Category : #WeAreEmoryEPI

We are excited to introduce our summer #IamEmoryEPI segment “Inside APE” where we will be sharing highlights from students’ current APE projects taking place around the world! After just 1 year of coursework and internships, our students are on the front lines researching and combating public health problems, gaining experience and, in many cases, laying the groundwork for their thesis projects. We are excited to share their amazing work with the Confounder community this summer!

Let us know what you think!