Laurel Gumpert, MPH & MBA

Stony Brook University Program in Public Health
Community Health

What has been the single most rewarding experience of your career/studies so far?

The single most rewarding experience of my career at Stony Brook’s Program of Public Health has been being able to work at the World Trade Center Health Program. This clinic serves the needs of 9/11 first responders as well as developing cutting edge research. I grew up on Long Island and was only five years old on September 11th, 2001. However, I watched the long-lasting impacts of 9/11 on the lives of others around me. In a time of tragedy, these first responders ran towards a disaster to save the lives of others. Years later, these first responders are suffering from health problems associated from their selfless work. It is a privilege and an honor to be able to work with this specific population. I get to spend my days serving heroes so I consider myself very lucky.

What do you think is the biggest challenge that the public health field should be focusing on?

In 2019 the WHO issued a new term entitled, “vaccine hesitancy.” I think vaccine hesitancy is one of the biggest challenges facing the public health field globally. Vaccine hesitancy is when individuals do not vaccinate themselves or their family, regardless of the availability of services and the science that states the importance of vaccines. According to the Vaccine Knowledge Project, affiliated with University of Oxford, there have been significant decreases in cases of infectious diseases since the creation of vaccines in the United States. Measles, mumps and rubella have decreased by 99% since the creation of vaccines. Hepatitis A has decreased by 91% and hepatitis B has decreased by 83%. Polio and smallpox have decreased by 100% in the United States. However, now cases of measles are popping up all over the country endangering the lives of many. Vaccines save lives and it is important to continue to educate the population to ensure that vaccines are utilized. Additionally, we should continue to ensure that across the globe individuals in need are receiving access to life-saving vaccinations as well.