Skip Navigation

Population, Family and Reproductive Health

Alumni Highlights

Erin PearsonErin Pearson, PhD’15, MPH

What memories do you have as a student here in the department? OR What are some good memories you had when you were a student here – e.g. studies, public health experience, interactions with faculty and colleagues?

I had many good experiences at Hopkins, but the one that stands out is the opportunity to work with my advisor, Michele Decker, on the Sex Trade Abuse and Risk in Baltimore (STAR-B) study. Before coming to Hopkins, most of my work had been international, and it was very rewarding to work on a study in our own community. It was also an opportunity for me to work as a data collector myself rather than training others to do the data collection and waiting for the data to arrive for analysis. I learned a great deal under Professor Decker’s mentorship, working with her on all stages of the study from ethics submission to data collection to analysis and manuscript preparation.

Did you consider public health during your initial training?

I learned about public health as an undergraduate and immediately knew it was the right fit for me. I was a neuroscience major and did bench science, but began doing public health internships, which paved my way to graduate school in public health.

What are some challenges and opportunities in the field of population and reproductive health?

As use of technology increases and women access reproductive health services in more varied settings, including pharmacies, hotlines or online, measurement challenges increase. However, we also have an opportunity to meet women where they are to help ensure they can receive high quality reproductive health care regardless of the setting or model of care.

What advice would you give to current students interested in the field of global development, maternal and child health, and/or population?

Talk with people who work in various roles within the field to find your niche. Hopkins has great resources, and opportunities to find mentors both within and outside the department.

Do you have any advice you would give to current students in the department?

Make the most of your time at Hopkins - take the more challenging methods courses, and work with professors as RAs and TAs to gain more varied experience and build your network.

You have many accomplishments – does any one stand out in particular?

Receiving the Sommer Scholarship to complete my doctoral studies was a highlight of my time at Hopkins. I felt honored to have been nominated by faculty and thoroughly enjoyed being part of the program.

Erin Pearson is a Senior Researcher, Technical Innovation and Evidence, at Ipas, Chapel Hill, NC

 


Emma PosnerEmma Posner, MSPH’16

What memories do you have as a student here in the department? OR What are some good memories you had when you were a student here – e.g. studies, public health experience, interactions with faculty and colleagues?

PopFam allowed for the best of both worlds at JHSPH, balancing the school’s energy and size with a supportive and tight knit community. I continue to feel grateful for the mentorship I received from faculty and the way professors worked to get to know us both as students and as people. In my field placement and on research projects, faculty took incredible care to ensure that I felt like a valued team member. I was constantly learning from my cohort and fellow PopFam students, an inspiring group that broadened my exposure to new issues and ideas. My cohort always found thoughtful ways to support and cheer for one another, including through potlucks in the PopFam lounge during stressful weeks.

Did you consider public health during your initial training?

Although my college did not have a public health program, I majored in sociology and took a few interdisciplinary classes related to public health. I was interested in issues that affected families, children and adolescents and explored these interests through work in programs that support children with special health care needs following college. My work experiences combined with my undergraduate studies helped ground my interests within public health and continue to shape my approach to work.

What are some challenges and opportunities in the field of population and reproductive health?

A key challenge lies in our ability to create environments in which public health programs can be effective, specifically by addressing structural racism. In response to racial inequities we see in maternal and child health, public health programs designed primarily as promotion or prevention programs often function as interventions. We see this in the way our evidence-based home visiting programs respond to challenges and service gaps experienced by families that are often beyond the programs’ design or control (e.g. months or years-long waitlists for housing or gaps in access to child care and preschool). Historically, many maternal and child health programs have focused on individuals, families and the workforce, yet addressing racial and other inequities requires a focus on redesigning our systems. For public health programs to be effective, we need to think creatively about structural change in order to build systems that work for families, particularly families of color, and environments that allow our programs to work as we hope they will.

What are some opportunities you see for the field?

Although public health emphasizes targeted interventions, the challenges families face intersect in complex ways and addressing them will require meaningful cross-sector collaboration. For example, in communities where there are significant gaps in housing and mental health services, it is challenging for home visiting programs alone to support families when their basic needs are not met. Addressing any one issue in isolation is unlikely to make a meaningful difference in most systems of care. As we work across sectors to address challenges comprehensively, we will be likely to see more equitable outcomes and to use talent and resources more efficiently. There seems to be an interest in building capacity for innovative collaboration at both the state and federal levels, as indicated by funding opportunities that expect collaboration and discussions about shared outcome measures across sectors. Although we have a lot to learn as we explore new ways of working together, it is exciting to see collaboration valued and incentivized because it will allow us to address issues more strategically and effectively. 

What advice would you give to current students interested in the field of global development, maternal and child health, and/or population?

When I was a student in the department, we often talked about the importance of leaving JHSPH with concrete skills. As students think about what skills they hope to develop, I would encourage them to practice soft skills, such as how you communicate with others, work on a team, adapt to new situations, give and receive feedback. The fields of maternal and child health and reproductive health are constantly evolving and soft skills will better position students to adapt to emerging issues, navigate changing political climates and build partnerships to address issues collaboratively and from multiple angles. Don’t underestimate the value of your soft skills in creating opportunities for you to apply your other tools. 

Do you have any advice you would give to current students in the department?

I would encourage students to let their interests evolve. I felt supported by the department to explore new interests both within and outside of PFRH, and still sometimes wondered about when it would make sense to focus further. I am glad I had the flexibility to keep my interests broad. I would also encourage students to gain exposure to many different public health careers through lectures, alumni networks and internships. I found it valuable to divide my practicum experience into two very different field placements – one on an evidence review of adolescent sexual and reproductive health programs in Zimbabwe and another on an evaluation of a postpartum nurse home visiting program implemented by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Both hearing and gaining exposure to a range of public health paths helped me think more broadly about settings I could see working in.

You have many accomplishments – does any one stand out in particular?

I have realized that my public health path both during and in the few years since graduating from JHSPH has been shaped by moments when I was open to new opportunities that might not have been what I had planned. As an example, while at JHSPH one of my field placements grew out of a conversation I had in a hardware store (this field placement is where I now work). I am grateful to have been open to field placements and jobs that came along in unexpected, and occasionally inconvenient, ways.

 

 


e-news home -- congratulations -- 2019 pfrh honors & awards -- 2019 pfrh graduates -- research and practice -- alumni highlights -- education happenings