Blog Health Equity

Summer Research Program alumni blog – Megan Hunt

Written by Megan Hunt, Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program alumna

Throughout my life, I had been interested in pursuing a career in healthcare. However, it wasn’t until my experience in the Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program that I was able to identify exactly where I saw myself in the field.

As a rising junior in college, I was remotely familiar with the field of public health. My Biochemistry major exposed me to some of the facets of population health, but I was naïve to its complexities and broad reaching impacts. Upon discovery of the Washington University in St. Louis program, I decided to try my hand at public health; initially, I thought the program would help me rule it out as a field of interest. Yet, I could not have been more wrong.

Immediately upon entry into the program, the seminars swept me off of my feet. We dove into the many concepts, but most memorably, we discussed social determinants of health as major barriers in the provision of healthcare. In St. Louis itself, we saw the impacts of housing laws and racial discrimination on real health outcomes. I was floored by how blatant the injustice was and by my inability to see its existence prior to this experience.

My research project, based in rural Uganda, delved deeper into gendered HIV treatment and care in government clinics. I was exposed to an entirely new field of research in anthropology, quickly learning the public health challenges faced by the international community. In a relatively short experience: eight weeks total with six abroad, I gained immeasurable insight about myself and the community with which we were working.

The combination of the injustice I saw both in St. Louis and in Uganda influenced my priorities in pursuing medical education. I began researching public health centered medical schools. I distinctly remember discussing different opinions with my mentor, Dr. Shanti Parikh, who asked, “Is Johns Hopkins on your list? Their program is world-renowned for public health.” Prior to that moment, I had not given deep consideration to Johns Hopkins.

Low and behold, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine is where I will be for the next four years training in medicine. We have begun our medical school curriculum with a course on health disparities that is immensely similar to the seminars in St. Louis a year prior that exposed me to the power of public health, only the city is now Baltimore.

I am where I am today due to the impact of the IPH Summer Program on my perception of health disparities. Thanks to my exposure in the IPH program, I intend on keeping public health at the center of my practice through the pursuit of a Master’s in Public Health or a Master’s in Public Policy. I am beyond excited to be beginning my medical education and cannot wait to see what is in store for the other members of my IPH 2016 Cohort.