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Southwestern alumni find rewarding careers in public health

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    Margaret Hawthorne '02

From statistics to governmental policy to education to medical research, public health careers span a wide range of responsibilities and disciplines.  There’s something for everyone.  SU grads Margaret Hawthorne ‘02 and Priya Kewada ‘06 shared their insight into this dynamic and rewarding field.

In conjunction with the 2010 Shilling Lecture by epidemiologist William Foege, two Southwestern alumni who are working in public health shared their experiences with students who are considering careers in the field on Wednesday, March 10, 2010.

Margaret Hawthorne graduated from Southwestern in 2002 with a degree in business and a minor in math. After graduation, she went to work for EDS doing health care IT. Although she enjoyed the health care aspect of her job, she did not find it personally fulfilling. “I wanted a job where at the end of the day I felt like I was doing something for my community,” Hawthorne said.

Her father suggested she pursue a career in public health, so she earned a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. After she graduated from Johns Hopkins, her advisor asked her if she wanted to stay at the university and work at the Institute for Global Tobacco Control, which is headquartered there.

Hawthorne returned to Texas in 2008 to take a job as an epidemiologist with the Texas Department of State Health Services. In her current position, she monitors the prevalence of tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS in the state. She hopes to eventually earn a Ph.D. in food policy.

Priya Kewada graduated from Southwestern in 2006 with a degree in biology. After taking a year off to work in her native Zimbabwe on issues related to HIV and AIDS, she enrolled in the MPH program at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga. After doing her thesis on the health effects of air pollution, one of her professors at Emory hired her to stay there and assist with studies on global air pollution.

Kewada said she likes public health because it gives her an opportunity to combine academics with her interest in social issues. She said she first became interested in the field when she took a course on social justice issues with Anthropology Professor Melissa Johnson her last semester at Southwestern.

Kewada and Hawthorne both noted there are many different jobs available within the field of public health. They also noted that there are a variety of degree programs that students who are interested in the field can pursue. In addition to an MPH, for example, they said there are graduate schools that offer M.D./MPH programs, MBA/MPH programs and even JD/MPH programs.

Both also said their undergraduate studies at Southwestern prepared them well for graduate school as well as for their eventual jobs.

“Southwestern is a great platform to do whatever you want because it gives you a wide variety of skills,” Hawthorne said. “Public health problems are complex and you have to attack them from many different angles.”