Lauren Kauffman

Lauren Kauffman

PhD, Epidemiology, University of Maryland School of Public Health

What inspired you to study public health?

In my undergraduate years I studied biology, studio art, and anthropology. I loved biology but never saw myself as a clinical healthcare professional, nor did I see myself doing research in a wet lab. For some time, I thought I would continue on a physical anthropology track, and then a genetic counseling track, but these were not quite the right fits either. I learned about public health as a discipline through a coworker, and out of interest I started taking a few classes at UMD in 2017.
What has been the single most rewarding experience of your career/studies so far?
It is difficult for me to pinpoint a single experience that I found most rewarding because I see public health, and life in general, as a series of small successes that build up over time. For me, these small successes include positive interactions with students as a teaching assistant in epidemiology, having the opportunity to contribute to multiple ongoing research projects with well-respected professors, and designing my own research projects.

Advice:

I am very proud to attend an institution that has a designated track for undergraduates interested in public health, but I know that this is not the case everywhere. Therefore, there are so many students that are unfamiliar with public health and its many sub-disciplines. I would encourage science- or math-focused high school students and college undergraduates everywhere to learn about the discipline of public health – it may just be their perfect fit.

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

While vaccine hesitancy has been a public health concern for a long time, the recent events surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic have brought it to the forefront of scientific and public awareness. As a health behavior, vaccine hesitancy is an immensely complex phenomenon that does not have a one-size-fits-all solution. However, it must be addressed, as the outcomes of continuing or increasing vaccine hesitancy have the potential to be long-reaching and long-lasting.