Robyn Jordan: Public Health First

May 13, 2015

With Commencement days away, members of the Class of 2015 reflect on their time as Mailman School students and share their plans for the future.

Robyn Jordan, who is about to receive an MPH in Epidemiology, graduated from the Mailman School once before: the first time, from the Biostatistics Enrichment Summer Training program, better known as BEST. This fall, armed with her new degree, Jordan will pursue a longtime dream of going to medical school. In her own words, she explains why getting an MPH had to come first:

I always knew that I wanted to be a doctor, but it wasn’t until got into my undergraduate major in Health and Societies that I realized I couldn’t be an MD without an MPH, or an MPH without an MD. For me, the two are inextricably linked.

By the end of the summer of my junior year at the University of Pennsylvania, I had completed Mailman’s Biostatistics Enrichment Summer Training (BEST) Diversity Program. BEST exposed me to the quantitative side of public health, which Mailman’s program structure allowed me to explore in greater detail through my MPH in Epidemiology and my certificate in Applied Biostatistics. I’m so into it now that I annoy my friends when we see ads citing a statistic on the subway. I’m like, “What’s the sample size? What were you trying to prove? What measures did you take?”

It was also through the BEST program that I met Dr. Emma Benn, and she’s been an essential mentor to me ever since. When I’m stuck on something, I’ll send her email to get her take on the issue. She, along with all of the resources and connections I’ve drawn from at Mailman, is one of the big reasons that I’ll be enrolling in the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. I was torn between choosing Mount Sinai or the University of Michigan, but knowing that all of my public health mentors would be a few subway stops away in case I needed some advice, coupled with a generous scholarship and the fact that Sinai is in a big city verses the college town of Ann Arbor, ultimately made the decision for me.

Once I graduate from med school, I want to work closely with the communities where I’ll live. A lot of times people think of public health in global terms, but we have many problems in the United States that need to be addressed as well. I also want to directly impact the area where I’ll live through my research, since I’ll be drawing from that community for support. I wouldn’t feel comfortable drawing resources from a community without replacing what is given to me.

I don’t think that I would have been happy with just an MD or just an MPH, and I’m really glad that I’ll receive my MPH first. From here on, my training as a public health advocate will inform my role as a physician, and not the other way around. I’m not sure what I’m going focus my research on just yet, but I know that the abilities in critique and analysis I gained from Mailman, along with the activism I’ve seen in my classmates, will forever be a part of me and my research.