Studying disease transmissions in health care

Written by Lauren Aycock, undergraduate in biomedical engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology and participant in the Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program

Over the past four weeks, I’ve had the privilege to gain a deeper understanding of global health from a wide range of perspectives. This past Wednesday, I was honored to meet Dr. Hilary Babcock, an infectious disease specialist who earned her Master’s degree in Public Health while simultaneously building her career in medicine and raising a family.

Dr. Babcock currently serves as medical director of two departments, treats patients on a weekly basis, serves as an inpatient consultant, and leads interdisciplinary research endeavors.

Dr. Babcock’s current research involves defining “aerosol generating procedures” in health care settings, and her multidisciplinary team is specifically focusing on influenza. In fact, my summer research mentor, Dr. Jacco Boon, is part of the team. The project entails gathering samples of aerosol droplets produced by patients undergoing intense respiratory procedures and searching those samples for infectious flu particles. Dr. Babcock’s study has the potential to inform new guidelines for safe healthcare worker practices, as well as shed light on the dangers of aerosolization.

The 1918 Spanish Influenza Pandemic killed over 50 million people, illustrating the dangers of influenza.

It was also inspiring to learn from Dr. Babcock’s personal experiences. She shared some incredible advice: You shouldn’t limit yourself now just because you can’t see how it will all work out later. She encouraged us to take advantage of exciting opportunities as they arise and to find supportive partners who will encourage us to pursue careers that we love.

Our afternoon with Dr. Babcock was inspiring, from her incredible influenza work, to her interdisciplinary leadership, to her proof that women really can do it all and find balance in their lives. As I set out to join the global health career force, I am excited to continue investigating viruses and other infectious diseases, as well as find ways to involve a range of disciplines to achieve common goals on a global scale.