Christine Hershey says one of the big misconceptions she’s heard about public health is that there isn’t much of a future in infectious disease research. Why? Because vaccines and drugs already exist for many diseases.
She disagrees: “There are new pathogens, or at least new variants, being discovered all the time—take the H1N1 (swine flu) outbreak, and more recently Ebola and Zika.”
Hershey would know. She has been conducting biological research in the lab for 14 years. As an undergraduate at the University of California, San Diego, her research on Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (VSV) resulted in two publications and earned her the UCSD Molecular Biology Outstanding Achievement Award. After earning her PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, she did postdoctoral research at Harvard Medical School on the virus that causes dengue fever, including research conducted in Singapore. But Hershey understands the chasm between bench and bedside. “Even if there are drugs and vaccines available, they are not always available to the people who need them,” she says, “and that’s where bench research leaves off and public health comes in.”
For 10 years, Hershey’s spent time away from the bench volunteering for the Hepatitis B Initiative (HBI), a nonprofit organization that provides hepatitis B screenings and immunizations. Through HBI, she also helped set up a vaccination clinic in Dorchester, Mass. serving the Vietnamese community.
She came to the Bloomberg School to gain formal epidemiological and biostatistical training, and envisions working for the CDC or a state public health department to help investigate and prevent disease outbreaks or for USAID to deliver proven public health interventions. “My goal is to continue working in the infectious disease field,” Hershey says, “but I am also looking to build on my research training and volunteer work, and transition from the molecular to the population level.”
Malaria Technical Advisor, US Agency for International Development