Kelsey Simon (IDM ‘20) thought she knew how her undergraduate experience at the University of Pittsburgh would play out. She had had a keen interest in biology and medicine since childhood, when she witnessed her mother donate a kidney and her brother undergo a liver transplant, and she naturally thought her next step would be to pursue a degree in the hard sciences.
But it was a pesky course requirement that led her to venture outside her biology-major-chemistry-minor focus to discover new world of possibility in public health.
“My first introduction to public health was through a public service minor,” she says. “It got me thinking about how working at a population level could lead to greater changes.” Study abroad in Ecuador followed, where Simon toured hospitals, learned about the Ecuadorian health care system and indigenous medicine and practices, and developed an interest in infectious disease and global health.
“I got something different out of all of my courses and really wanted a career where I could put all of these things together: biology, working with people, social/ethics, global health. An MPH combined all of these interests perfectly.”
She searched public health graduate options in infectious disease that offered an interdisciplinary approach but quickly realized these programs are not all created equally.
“There are not many programs that allow students to do an MPH in infectious disease,” she says. “Those are primarily MS programs, which I had no interest in doing. I love microbiology, and I didn’t want to lose the hard science aspect of my education. Pitt was the only place that allowed me to study both infectious disease and global health while getting an MPH.”
In addition, Simon says the ability to earn a master’s degree in less than two years without sacrificing the quality of her education through IDM’s accelerated MPH degree option was a deciding factor. Now on campus, she says she’s looking forward to taking advantage of the countless opportunities to network and collaborate with other students and faculty, which she knows will position her well for the future.
“Pitt Public Health is in the middle of a city that was rebuilt by education and medicine, and the opportunities here are endless,” she says. “Pitt has a strong partnership with the Allegheny County Health Department, and Pittsburgh is an affordable, livable city with so many things to do.
“I’m not quite sure where I want to end up yet but I plan to work in a community context, ideally within a health department. That may take the form of infection control or vaccination programs. No matter where I end up, I am confident I will be well prepared because Pitt trains its students well and across disciplines.”