What inspired you to volunteer at the Dengue Branch of Puerto Rico’s Centers for Disease Control:
I've been interested in medicine, and specifically infectious disease, for as long as I can remember. Population-level approaches to improving health, generally the focus of public health organizations such as the CDC, have potential to improve health outcomes for a lot of people. The CDC in particular is also very application-focused and multidisciplinary, which appeals to me because there are immediate and tangible outcomes. New information comes in, experts from a variety of fields come together and discuss and come up with a plan, and they go out and execute.
You were chosen to be on ProMazo’s list of Most Interesting Students for a reason. Do you have any advice for other students hoping to create their own success:
Seek out mentors! Not only do they provide great advice from experience, they may have connections, and can make whatever you want to do feel more approachable. I was able to pursue the opportunity in Puerto Rico and many others due to spectacular mentorship. The principal investigator of the lab I worked at during my freshman year of college made the initial connection to the CDC for me and so much has grown from his introduction; numerous other mentors over the years paved the way for other opportunities. And of course, in turn, seek to do the same for others. Paying mentorship forward and providing advice to younger or less experienced people can be rewarding, allow reflection on your own experiences, and is the foundation for introducing new voices and ideas to whatever field you may be in.
"Don't pray for the rain to stop, pray for good fishing when the river floods." Wendell Barry
Biggest role models or inspirations:
My biggest role models are definitely my family, my parents and grandparents. My mom taught me that it is possible to balance everything if it's important to you; somehow, she balanced working as a high-power partner at a major law firm with raising two children, and now, in "retirement," has thrown herself into a second career as a political advisor. I inherited my love for sports from my dad, who is one of the most hardworking, scrappy, and dedicated people I know.
Outside of my family, Dr. Paul Farmer was one of my early inspirations to be interested in medicine and public health. I really admire the work being done by Dr. Atul Gawande, who uses his spectacular writing ability to elucidate the strengths and weaknesses of healthcare systems. I also have immense admiration for anyone who works for Medecins Sans Frontieres, providing healthcare where it is most desperately needed. For example, Professor Yap Boum II who recently spoke at Yale about his work for Epicentre, demanding multilingual communication in science, and building higher education and research capacity in Africa.
When I was 5 or 6, before I wanted to go into medicine and public health, I wanted to be an artist! I used to draw all day and managed to even sell a few of my "works," usually to people that my parents had bribed.
Outside of athletics, probably reading and writing. High school and college made it hard to find the time, but in the last couple of years I've rediscovered the ravenous reader I was as a kid. I'm glad I've made it a priority again.
I also love listening to music, especially if it's something I can dance to (not that I'm a good dancer). One of my favorite things about Puerto Rico is the dancing culture; people of all ages can dance and love to teach others to salsa, merengue, bachata. And listening to folk music, like plena and bomba, is a fantastic way to spend an evening. Music and dancing has even become a central way people are protesting corruption.
I feel like I have too many career "interests" – infectious disease, healthcare inequality, writing, research, and emergency response, among them – but the one thing I am 100% sure about is that I want to be a doctor. I'm planning to go to medical school in the near future, and to work as a doctor somewhere at the intersection of these interests, potentially in the public sector or for a nonprofit. For now though, I'm trying to learn as much as I can and hopefully contribute to our understanding of how vector-borne diseases spread.