May 20 2019

The Class of 2019 in Their Own Words

Master’s students in the Columbia Mailman Class of 2019 have shared any number of pivotal experiences: navigating the Columbia Core and life in New York City, choosing a summer practicum and certificate program, finishing their thesis or capstone, and all the while, preparing for a future in public health.

Recently, Transmission reconnected with five members of the graduating class, as they reflected on the last two years and what lies ahead. Some of the group had written for Student Voices about their experiences and passions, from gun violence prevention to the connections between human health and the environment. We also talked to friends Nadeem Fazal and Shamaal Sheppard who discovered at orientation that they knew each other from the world of college track and field.

Jennifer Britton

I worked in reproductive health before starting at Mailman. As a student here, I got the chance to continue doing this work, in an out of the classroom. I did my practicum with Project STAY through the Harlem Health Promotion Center [ed: read about Britton’s practicum experience in her Student Voices post]. I got to work closely with young people in the community to connect them with sexual health services. I was glad for the experience, but I discovered that my heart is in research and advocacy. Since last fall, I’ve been working as a research assistant on a study of the Global Gag Rule, as part of the new Global Health Justice and Governance program. I love my department, Population and Family Health. The professors are so dedicated. I also fell in love with New York City again. I feel like I will stay awhile.

Nadeem Fazal

Shamaal and I first met as undergrads competing in the 400 hurdles [read a Q&A with Fazal and Sheppard from 2017]. We’re roommates now. You could compare my experience at Mailman to the 400 hurdles. You have to pace yourself to finish strong. It was never about just one class, but building my knowledge about public health to reach my career goals. I’ve taken part in a few case competitions, which taught me to think creatively about complex problems. As part of the Consulting Club, I also participated in case workshops hosted by companies. Case studies are a big part of the interview process, and those events opened the door to several interviews. Since starting at Mailman, I’ve worked at Johnson & Johnson, the American Heart Association, and the Dedham Group. Recently, I accepted an offer to work with PA Consulting Group. I start there in July.

Sun-Ming Jessica Pan

After the Parkland shooting last year, I helped organize a protest and teach-in across the medical center that framed gun violence as a public health issue [read about Pan’s work on Gun Violence Action week]. Since last fall, I’ve worked as an intern at the nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety. Our team looked at non-legislative means to combat gun violence, including environmental design, which is a method studied by Dr. [Charles] Branas, who is my thesis advisor. I’ve also worked with a national coalition called SAFE to create a gun violence curriculum for medical students. I hope to be a medical student myself; this summer I’m preparing for the MCATs. Another highlight of my time at Mailman was participating in an interprofessional trip to Puerto Rico. This School is very nimble. Whether it’s gun violence or a hurricane, we mobilize and respond. There aren’t a lot of places like that. 

Shamaal O’Shea Sheppard

Moving to New York pushed me to become involved in community practice. My mentor, Dr. Robert Fullilove, connected me with a program called BeWell, which provides health education to improve outcomes for teens. I served as a health coach for a year and a half, and mentored students in Harlem. I was fortunate to find supportive networks that challenged me to grow personally and academically. As a result, my peers and I desired to learn more about Medicaid policy. With the support of Professor Michael Sparer, he offered us an opportunity to do an independent study that resulted in an eye-opening learning experience on the intricacies of evaluating health policy at the federal level. After graduation, I will be looking for full-time positions in Washington, D.C., and New York related to Medicaid policy. I’m very confident that the skillsets I gained at Mailman will significantly contribute to my professional aspirations.

Melody Wu

Starting as an undergraduate, I’ve pursued many different interests. I majored in East Asian Studies and worked on national security and international policy at a progressive think tank in Washington, D.C. After graduating college, I became a research study assistant at a hospital. I grew to love health-related research, which eventually led me to Mailman. Another interest of mine is the link between animal, environmental, and human health, which I was able to pursue as the president of the Columbia One Health Initiative [read Wu’s Student Voices post about the group’s visit to the Bronx Zoo]. For my practicum, I was an Epi Scholar at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. My work there on pneumonia hospitalizations is being prepared for publication. Next, I’m going to be a healthcare analyst at Analysis Group. Longer term, I’m thinking about returning to school for an epidemiology PhD.