What do you do?
I analyze and develop health, science, and technology policies and evaluate international frameworks, regulations, and legislation for impacts on global health policy. I work closely with the WHO and other United Nations coordinating bodies to develop strategies and evidence-based decisions to improve global health security, including implementation of vaccination programs, vaccine manufacturing capacity building in low- and middle-income countries, and deployment of medical countermeasures in an emergency.
Why did you choose this field?
I knew when I was young that I wanted to be a scientist, but truthfully, I did not quite understood what that meant in practical terms until much later in life. I received a PhD in Microbiology and completed my postdoctoral training at Emory University School of Medicine as an investigator for the NIAID Centers of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance. After several years in research and teaching & mentoring graduate students, I came to realize that my interests, skill-set, and perspectives on global health needed an outlet beyond the laboratory.
I was selected as an AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow (a fellowship I had kept an eye on for nearly six years) and served that role in the Department of Defense, Office of Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs. It was here that I got to help bridge the gap between science and policy and experience the importance of developing policies and decisions that are evidence-based. During this time, I supported the response to the Ebola outbreak in Western Africa and the launch of the Global Health Security Agenda, and these experiences really solidified my career in Global Health Policy.
I continued with the Department of Defense for a period of time before moving to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where I have focused my efforts on influenza preparedness and response policy and worked closely with the World Health Organization to develop strategies and evidence-based decisions to improve global health security as well as access to vaccines and medical countermeasures. I am also currently supporting CDC's response to COVID-19, which has really been an exceptional experience and has afforded me the opportunity to work in a completely different sector of public health, but for which my scientific and policy expertise have prepared me well to do.
In addition to the scientific thread evident throughout my career, one additional skill that I attribute to my research career and value tremendously is collaboration. We are surrounded by stark reminders of the challenges that our global community continues to face; we need not only innovative thinking, technological advancements, and evidence-based policies, but we need strong partnerships to enhance our ability to overcome our most pressing societal challenges. We can accomplish great things together!
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
I was selected as a AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow - it was a fellowship that I eyed for six years before I ever applied. I wish sometimes that younger me would have known how amazing this fellowship would be. The network I gained, the experiences, the opportunities, and most importantly, the realization that there was more to the field of science than laboratory research - it was a turning point in my career.
Why do you love working in STEM?
I love having the skillset to work through a problem scientifically - using data and analysis to respond to challenging issues, and as scientists, we are always working at the cutting edge of technology, medicine, robotics, etc. I am constantly awed by the innovative spirit of scientists - it really is a passion and it's inspiring to work with passionate people.
Best advice for next generation?
Push past gender stereotypes and don't ever follow a path because society tells you this is the path to follow - embrace being outside of your comfort zone - it's a thrilling place to live.
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...” -Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You'll Go!