Name: Mohammad Modarres
Year: Class of 2011
Hometown: Paramus, NJ
Major: Public Health and Anthropology
MAJORING IN PUBLIC HAPPINESS
Having forgotten to lower the blinds the night before, I painfully wake up at 5:40am to the sunlight reflecting off of my computer monitor and on to my face. As my roommate gets ready for ROTC physical training I consider twice about going back to sleep. I decide to get up, after seeing him leave for a 2 mile jog in 42-degree weather, and get a head start on the things I couldn’t finish the night before.
Standing in front of my dorm room window on the 5th floor of McCoy Hall, facing my amazing view of the University Baptist Church as the sun begins to rise, my mother’s voice takes over my thoughts…“Do you know how many people would like to be in your place right now!? Do you know how fortunate you are?!…” With her daily phone calls, she lets me know—as if I’ll forget—how fortunate I truly am. After all, not that many people have the opportunity to study public health at the one of the best undergraduate public health programs in the world.
I came to Johns Hopkins knowing I wanted to be a public health major because I wanted to learn the skills and knowledge of protecting and progressing the health of a community. What appealed to me right from the start was the idea of improving the health of a large number of people at once. “A doctor helps one patient at a time, a public health specialist helps, on average, 27,000 patients at a time…” With a population-based approach, public health effectively deals with the needs of people’s health and works with groups involved to create conditions that will help keep communities healthy.
Unfortunately, many universities do not yet have undergraduate public health programs, but they are quickly growing across the country and the Johns Hopkins Public Health Studies is a model for many curriculums around the country. (Check out two articles about us: One and Two.) Other schools that do have an undergraduate PH program include Boston University and George Washington University.
I decided at the beginning of my sophomore year to concentrate in anthropology and political science within my major. As a public health social science student, in addition to the required courses that all public health students must take, I have to complete three courses in group A and B…Groups? Concentration? I’ll explain, I’ll explain.
Group A includes the anthropology, history, psychology, and sociology department. Choose one department and take three 300-level courses. I am choosing to take my three classes in the anthropology department since I am would like to get better at field work for my social science research projects. The great part about choosing anthropology as my concentration is also how easy it is to double major in anthro. By taking three 300-level courses for my public health requirement, I will only need four more anthro classes to double major!
Group B includes the economics, geography/environmental science, history of science, and the political science departments to choose from. In this group, I chose political science because of my interest in international politics. I will be fulfilling my PS requirements by taking courses at The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) next semester in DC. With a PH-SS emphasis, my schedule allows me to take many courses outside of just the subject of public health.
In addition, students can take two more 300-level social science courses in any department to fulfill their 24-credit social science emphasis.
As you can see, there is a great deal of flexibility in the curriculum and most of it is controlled by you. Personally, for my undergraduate education, I want to take an arrangement of classes that follow my curiosity rather than a step-by-step agenda. Studying abroad and having the summers to intern is very important to me and I’m not sure if I could have the time to do the things that I want other programs. As I mentioned before, however, there are still courses that all public health students must take.
These include Calculus I and two semesters of English along with introductions to the many fields in public health. These PH classes include: Environment and Your Health (really interesting material), Intro to Health Policy and Management (the class that brings in guest lecturers like Dr. Pronovost!), Biostatistics, and Epidemiology (pretty awesome). My sister who is getting her MPH (Masters in Public Health) at Tulane University is taking similar courses at the graduate level. It feels good to be able to relate to her studies. She is concentrating in Women’s Health under the Community Health Dept. so she emphasizes more on some courses than others, but there have been many family discussions—since my dad also has a ph background—about public health topics.
Senioritis, No Thank You.
You will have the opportunity to take your senior year public health classes at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Heath (downtown on the Med Campus) which is known to be the best public health school in the world. Founded in 1916 by William Welsch and J. Rockefeller, it is the oldest school of public health in the country and the second oldest in the world. During my senior year, I will be able to take 12 credits at the graduate school, one-half of which can be transferred over to a MHS (masters in health science) in Environmental Science or Mental Health. Pretty cool, huh?
For work-study, I work at the Epidemiology Department (6th floor HOLLA!) in the Bloomberg School of Public Health and absolutely love it. I’d like to attest for all PH students in stating that taking graduate courses as an undergraduate at BSPH is one of the highlights of being a PH student. Its more than just about higher-level learning, it’s about being part of the environment that has done so much good. I feel inspired working with the same people that have literally saved millions of lives. It really is an incredible place.
BSPH Alumni include:
- Virginia Apgar: founded the field of neonatology and best known for the Apgar test (which reduced infant mortality all over the world)
- DA Henderson: Played a great role in eradicating small pox.
- Wade Hampton Frost: As the first chair of the Epi Dept at BSPH, he studied age specific death rates for TB
- Antonia Novello: the first woman and first Hispanic to serve as Surgeon General.
- Alfred Sommer: Professor of Epidemiology, International Health, and Ophthalmology. He was dean of the BSPH from 1990-2005.
I Feel The Love: The PH Crew
Behind every great major, there are incredible program directors working countless hours making the curriculum and educational experience amazing. As the fastest growing major on campus and advisors to students who have won some of the most competitive national scholarships including the Marshall and Rhodes, the advisors of the PHS program are beyond just advisors, they are wonderful mentors and close friends.
My favorite class last semester, Urban Health and Advocacy, was my introduction to meeting Professor Goodyear. Now as my Woodrow Wilson Research Fellowship advisor, Dr. Goodyear has helped me gain different perspectives on how to look at public health issues, while helping me gain incredible insight on how to go about doing better fieldwork. His genuine interest in wanting students to be successful shows his passion as an advisor. I am humbled and honored to be his student as I have deep respect and trust in him.
As the most recent addition to the PHS team (and as my primary PHS advisor), Ms. Lisa Folda has brought her Peace Corps and working experience from the BSPH to help students see a new refreshing perspective. Her understanding for student affairs, along with her desire to help PH student groups get involved within the greater Baltimore area and abroad, has helped me better understand how studying public health can positively impact everyone.
Student clubs and activities involved with the PHS program include:
- Epidemic Proportions: Epidemic Proportions is a public health journal designed to highlight JHU research and field work in public health. Combining research and scholarship, the journal seeks to capture the breadth and depth of the JHU undergraduate public health experience.
- Project Health: Works to break the link between poverty and poor health by mobilizing college students to provide sustained public health interventions in partnership with urban medical centers, universities, and community organizations.
- Public Health Student Forum (PHSF) is a collection of dedicated individuals who care deeply about providing aid to the underprivileged in Baltimore. PHSF strives to promote the advocacy of statewide public health issues and policies in its communities, as well as on the Johns Hopkins University campus. By mobilizing Baltimore city residents and the Johns Hopkins student body, PHSF ultimately seeks to lobby the Maryland legislature to pass policies that focus on providing aid to the underprivileged throughout Maryland, many of whom are concentrated in Baltimore.
And The Award Goes To…
If having great program directors aren’t enough proof, listed below are PHS students who have recently received great recognition for their public health work.
Of the forty students nationwide to receive the Marshall Scholar Award, both Rishi Mediratta and Kurt Herzer are both graduates of the Johns Hopkins PHS program. Sonia Sarkar, a double major in public health and international studies, and Kurt Herzer, a public health studies major, joined the 63 other Truman Scholars chosen this year from among 595 candidates nationwide.
My Future: What A PHS Degree From Hopkins Means
What can you do in the future with a public health degree from one of the world’s best public health programs? Oh I don’t know…
My sister worked for a UN Women’s Rights ngo before getting her MPH. A friend of mine who recently graduated from the PHS program is now a public health specialist for the Department of Health in Baltimore. Another student is attending law school. Another went to med school…the opportunities are endless.
Personally, I am still in the process of finding a common outline between all of the things that I am interested in. Recently, I realized that much of my work outside of school revolves around helping communities after war. After creating The Peace Project in high school, I have been raising funds for war-ravaged communities. As I am sure many of my fellow classmates can agree on, a background in public health will only add to whatever it is you want to do in life no matter what it is. PHS has given me a perspective that has helped me better understand many of the things that I am involved with. Currently, one of our biggest challenges in the Peace Project is to build a school in Baghdad. Although it might not seem like it, the situation has public health written all over it. Universal primary education, hunger and poverty, and everything listed under the UN Millennium Goals has a degree of public health in it.
Whether you want to be an anthropologist or archeologist, public health will always be around you. To understand public health, to appreciate what it has done and what it will do, and to learn from its teachings to better yourself and those around you will only expand your knowledge and understanding to add value to the world around you.
Hope to see you on campus soon!
Click here to access more information about the Public Health Undergraduate Program of Study.
To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins Forums’ Academics: The Insider Perspective and the Public Health question thread._______________________________________________________________________________