Public Health: Tap Into It!

One Year Later: Catching up with Sharon-Rose from the 2018 Public & Global Health Cohort

Written by Sharon-Rose Nartey, MD, MPH candidate, University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health and alumna of the Institute for Public Health Summer Research ProgramPublic & Global Health Track

After the end of my junior year at the University of Notre Dame, I was lucky enough to participate in the Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program. I worked in Dr. Christina Stallings’ lab, characterizing an essential transcription factor for Mycobacterium Tuberculosis growth and replication. I learned many valuable skills: patience and perseverance when experiments weren’t going as planned, different approaches to research, and I improved my scientific communication skills. This proved especially beneficial during my medical school interview trail; every interviewer asked about my research and I had to convey the details in a simple yet accurate manner.

Apart from research, I had the opportunity to shadow Dr. Ericka Hayes in the HIV clinic of St. Louis Children’s Hospital and sit in on an infectious disease team case study. Combined, these experiences strengthened my desire to go into medicine and global health: to search for a deeper understanding on why current interventions weren’t working and to understand that solutions to health equity had to be multidimensional. As a future physician, I can’t just rely on the prescription. I have to also look at the sociocultural factors at play. As a future researcher, I can’t just come up with interventions. I have to understand the stigmas that prevent citizens from accessing interventions.

During the school year, I extended these lessons to Notre Dame’s Human Development Conference, where I was the co-chair of the abstracts committee. Apart from my leadership role of screening and scoring the submitted abstracts, delegating responsibilities to my committee members, and organizing the different presentations into panels, this seven-month process allowed me to truly reflect on what it meant to be a person for others: how to serve others and view that service as an opportunity to learn, rather than a one-sided exchange.

As a mentor once said, if I go into any field to “help” others, I am wasting my time. However, if I go into the field with the belief that my liberation is tied to theirs, we can work together to get there. With these lessons in mind, this fall I will be enrolling at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Medicine and Public Health with hopes of becoming a pediatric infectious disease physician.

To prospective participants of the Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program, I would say you get just as much out of the program as you put into it! Make the effort to do those extra readings, make those connections, and don’t forget to enjoy your time in St. Louis. Everyone that is part of the program, whether fellow students, or mentors and program leaders, has so much to offer and is there because they want to help you grow. Take advantage of it. Also, there is greatness all around you. Tap into it!

This past semester, I took an infectious disease class at Notre Dame and during one of our lectures my professor put up an image of her old Primary Investigator (PI) and casually mentioned how he would be receiving a Nobel prize. Ironically, it happened to be one of the Institute for Public Health mentors whom I had met in passing. You never know who you are going to meet, and that introduction goes a long way!