Spotlight on Natural and Social Sciences Alumni: Stephanie Griswold

Name: Stephanie Griswold
Age: 28
Occupation: Public Health Advisor at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
Education (UR and additional): B.S. in Biology and B.S. in Psychology, University of Rochester, 2005; M.A. in Public Health, Emory University, 2007
Current city/state of residence: Atlanta, GA

When and how did you choose your major?

I was interested in a career in medicine since I was in elementary school, and it continued throughout high school. So, when looking at colleges and deciding on a major, I knew I wanted to do something in a science field. I was pleased to see the variety of courses and concentrations offered by the Biology Department, and considering I had a strong interest in the area to begin with, I decided to major in Biology. During my sophomore year, I took a few psychology classes and became very interested in the field, particularly some of the internship opportunities that existed. I took at look at my schedule and expected course load and figured out a way that I could easily complete a dual major, so at the beginning of my junior year, I declared a major in Psychology as well. As the years progressed, I realized that many of my courses provided a nice balance for one another, which I greatly appreciated.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

I was pre-med through the beginning of my senior year at UR – took all the requirements, took the grueling Kaplan course, took the MCATs, and even started applications for medical school. As I was completing the applications, I started to take a closer look at the past few years and began thinking more about my future and what I wanted to do with my life. Ultimately, I decided that medical school was too expensive (both in time and finances) and that if I was second guessing myself, maybe I shouldn’t be starting now. This was in the fall of my senior year, and I didn’t have much of a backup plan. I spent the summer before my senior year working as a research fellow in a hospital and met a resident who was in the process of completing her Master’s in Public Health (MPH). The courses seemed interesting and relevant, so I quickly registered to take the GRE, and before I knew it, I was applying the MPH programs. I was fortunate to be accepted into Emory University’s program, so in August 2005, I moved to Atlanta, Georgia.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

I’m currently a Public Health Advisor working at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). I support management and operations activities for CDC’s Global Disease Detection (GDD) program. GDD works with Ministries of Health and other government partners in nine countries around the world with the goal of building laboratory and epidemiology capacity to detect and contain emerging infectious diseases. While getting my MPH at Emory University, I started working part-time at the CDC. I quickly found that I loved the work and realized that I wanted to start a career in public health. With this interest, there was no better place to work than CDC! After graduating with my MPH, I was accepted into a leadership development fellowship program and started my work in global health immediately after that. I’ve been working with GDD for two and a half years now, and I now serve as our program team lead where I’m supervising five other people. I’m afforded many opportunities to travel around the world, and I love my job!

Where would you like to be in five years?

I hope to be working overseas for CDC in the next five years. The program that I work with supports activities in nine countries, and we have several US employees assigned overseas to implement the activities on the ground with our partners. I hope that I’m able to gain the relevant experience to ultimately qualify for one of these positions.

What advice do you have for current students?

My advice for other students is to do what you’re passionate about and follow your gut. If I didn’t follow my gut and put a hold on medical school when I did, I’m not sure where I’d be right now, but I’m pretty positive that I wouldn’t be as happy and successful as I have been. I think that everything happens for a reason, so I encourage others to think hard about what you want (not what your parents or friends might want), and never look back.