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Sommer Scholars

Cathryn Christensen

Master of Public Health Student

For Cathryn Christensen, there is no one defining moment when she decided on a future in public health. Rather, it was a series of rich experiences—including volunteer work across several African nations—that eventually steered her in this direction. “I was in Burundi immediately after it emerged from a decades-long civil war, and saw not only the effects of war on a society but also how people in my generation were motivated to help build something better,” she said. “Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve witnessed how broken health care systems contribute to suffering, and how dedicated people can make inroads against this suffering on both personal and community levels.” Now on the verge of completing a family medicine residency in Santa Rosa, California, Christensen wants to merge her clinical work and public health studies to improve systems. “When you’re doing clinical work you hear patients’ stories every day and see the fallout of systems that are not welldesigned,” she says. Christensen, who hopes to improve access to palliative care in resourcepoor settings, has a particular interest in how poor countries will adapt and improve upon technology. “There is the potential to avoid pitfalls resulting from issues such as multiple electronic medical record systems that don’t communicate with each other. It’s also exciting to think what new solutions will help bridge the gap between clinics and patients out in the community.” 60: Number of yards Christensen can swim underwater on one breath