Blog Global Health Center

Mentee reflects on Global Health Mentoring Program

Written by Jeanie Bryant, coordinator for the Global Health Center

Congratulations to Washington University School of Medicine Postdoctoral Research Associate, Sherry Yun Wang, PhD, on her new tenure track position at the School of Pharmacy, Chapman University, in Irvin, California.

Sherry is a former mentee in the Global Health Center’s Global Health Mentoring Program. Before heading to California, she found time to share her thoughts about the program and reflects on the past year of research. We look forward to continuing to engage with Sherry through the program and collaborations.

The past year has been difficult for everyone, and I was doing my own “laidback cosplay” project for fun when I was bored during the lockdown days. I love the data visualization in my research so much, so I used some  low-end techniques to create the picture of me sitting with Bernie Sanders. -Sherry Yun Wang
Q: Your primary discipline was substance use, primary care, and health economics. How have your interests changed this past year?

A: Thank you for the interview opportunity to allow me to share some thoughts. COVID-19 has profoundly changed the traditional way researchers conduct and share research. I believe our current research agenda should be timely and reliable for the newly emerging research questions and be shared with the whole world. Since COVID-19 affected the world, I started working on the COVID-19 mapping project. Our research deliverables were published in the journal, Clinical Infection Disease. As a principal investigator for my project, “Mapping Spatiotemporal Variation of Racial/Ethnic Disparities in COVID-19”, I was awarded a Colors of COVID Special Focus Grant of $30,000 at Washington University. Our research was reported in the COVID newsletter, “COVID-19 Literature Situation Report” published by the Washington State Department of Health.

Q: The purpose of the Global Health Mentoring Program is to expand networks, share knowledge, learn about opportunities, and receive mentoring by an expert in global health. What was your experience as a program mentee?

A: It is one of the most wonderful experiences I had at WashU. It did not surprise me that the Global Health Mentoring Program helped me reach out to more people. I highly recommend it to all the undergrads, postgrads and postdocs. I got the chance to know several people, including the mentors for my group, Ziyad Al-Aly, MD, School of Medicine, and Jacaranda van Rheenen, PhD, Global Health Center. They both offered “insider” suggestions in my faculty search. I believe “what brings you here won’t get you there.” At each critical period of your career development, you need to talk to the right people and gain insights into where to go. I think the Global Health Mentoring Program offers this tremendous opportunity.

Q: How has this past year changed the way you think about the future?

A: I think COVID-19 shows every one of us the great threat to the global public and underscores the need for sustained investment in global health research. At this time, WashU offers specializations in global health. I think COVID-19 opens the door for all of us to immerse ourselves in global health education and experience. The Global Health Mentoring Program offers that chance.

In the future, my research will explore the opioid epidemic under the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the virus, the opioid crisis was a pervasive public health threat in the United States. The nation’s opioid epidemic has grown into a much more complicated and deadly drug overdose epidemic. I am greatly concerned by an increasing number of reports from national, state and local media suggesting increases in opioid and other drug-related mortality. In the next one to two years, this will be the focus of my research.