Raised in Pittsburgh by an African American mother and Jewish father who studied culture in West Africa, Eva Chernoff says her dinner table frequently played host to international and intercultural gatherings.
“I was raised not to think of myself in terms of ethnicity but rather to have my own experiences,” she says. These experiences—including earning a degree in psychology-neuroscience with a minor in human development and family studies from Penn State University, attending medical school, and traveling to the Philippines to research infectious disease and public health—“have influenced my career motivations toward clinical practice among diverse, underserved populations affected by the social determinants of health.”
The summer after her first year of medical school, Chernoff traveled to an undeserved area in the Philippines to conduct research on how mass drug administration—a common public health measure promoted by the World Health Organization and used worldwide—can aid in preventing soil-transmitted helminth infection among school-age children. She specifically looked at the time period surrounding Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest typhoon ever recorded, and whether it negatively influenced program completion rates. She found that the program had proven effective, as it was able to continue despite widespread devastation.
“A number of factors could be attributed to its success, including a simple and easy design, establishment of the program for several years, a sense of community cohesiveness, and a focus on return to normalcy,” says Chernoff. “This project was my first glimpse at how a single public health measure could positively impact an entire population and nation affected with an illness.”
Now a Dean’s Scholar and Multidisciplinary Master of Public Health (MMPH) student at Pitt Public Health, she hopes to learn more about community-based participatory research and methods in qualitative research so she can create community-based interventions focusing on mental health in adolescents and children.
“As a physician who will work with populations that are affected by the societal determinants of health, I will need to be an advocate for my patients,” she says. “I hope to gain the knowledge, skill sets, and confidence to do so from the course work, research, and mentorship and practicum opportunities available through the Pitt MMPH program.
“Being a Pittsburgh native, I knew there would be no limit to my opportunities as a student and what I would be able to accomplish in terms of my future in medicine and public health. My interactions with faculty both at the School of Medicine and Graduate School of Public Health have only solidified those ideas.”