Public Health Graduates Aid in Pandemic
The public health program recently celebrated the graduation of its first cohort of students, who have all found employment or enrolled in graduate school since their graduation. Many in the Class of 2020 were able to help in public health efforts surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic by working as contact tracers, such as Ty Snarr ’20 and Connor Martin ’20.
Ty spent the summer calling close contacts for those who tested positive for COVID-19 in his hometown in Clinton County, Ohio. In this role, he witnessed the impact of his degree during a global pandemic.
Connor, a double major in public health and sociology, had been accepted to attend graduate school at IUPUI and wanted to become familiar with the area before he began his studies. He began contact tracing for the state of Indiana so that he could have first-hand experience working in a pandemic response before starting his master of public health in epidemiology.
“Contact tracing allowed me to see how a tool of the trade was used in the real world,” Connor says.
After spending the summer contact tracing, both Ty and Connor have transitioned to positions that allow them to explore their interests in the health care field and prepare for future career paths.
Ty works as a communicable disease intervention specialist for the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, a Native American commune in South Dakota. Currently his efforts are focused on COVID-19, but they will expand to other communicable diseases when applicable.
“Valpo has really helped me find early success in my career,” Ty says. “It’s hard to train for a specific job in public health, but my classes put me in a frame of mind on how to tackle a problem or disease outbreak through a public health lens.
“With both my jobs being related to infectious diseases, my epidemiology class prepared me with a perspective to look at different populations and how diseases spread among them. I am able to understand research into why a disease spreads differently due to factors like socio-economic disparity and lower health care access and how these ideas are reflected in my work.”
While Connor is a student at IUPUI, he also works as an HIV coordinator at the Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Hospital in Indianapolis.
“My current position is a mix of my two majors,” Connor says. “It’s not directly public health, but I still believe it is. I connect people with care and ensure they are on their medications. It’s rewarding to know I’m part of a team that helps people live healthy lives.”
Neither Ty nor Connor have decided exactly where they want to end up in their careers, but they both have ideas on how they can combine their public health education with other interests.
Ty hopes to explore questions relating to the relationship between public health and geography. Connor enjoys his current position, but he also wants to move into study-based research where he can contribute to literature and help solve future disease outbreaks.
Although each student had different experiences in the classroom, they both pointed to the role the public health major had on early success and hope the program can continue to grow.
“I hope a silver lining of the pandemic is that prospective students see public health as a legitimate field for those who want to enter the health care field and the program will continue to make an impact on campus and throughout the country,” Connor says.