Impacting Maternal and Child Health Locally and Globally
Behavioral Sciences and Health Education, MPH ’19
Certificate in Maternal and Child Health
“As a Rollins student, I’m challenged in so many different ways. Not just socially or how I think, but in the ways that I think. I feel like I have the tools now to really think critically about public health issues that I may have overlooked before.”
Meron Asfaha’s interest in public health draws from a personal place. "My mother grew up and lived in Ethiopia, and, upon visiting there, I noticed large infrastructural issues related to access to care for those who are impoverished. At the same time, I noticed that there were a lot of mothers caring for children that were on the streets without necessary shelter or resources," she says. Meron began investigating graduate programs where she could learn how to make an impact on women’s health in Ethiopia and beyond at the community level.
"I started looking at the research being done at different institutions, like Rollins. I emailed Amy Webb Girard [who specializes in nutrition and maternal and child health] and she responded right away saying there was room for me to do research there," recalls Meron. "The open accessibility of faculty was really what interested me." A quick campus visit later and Meron ultimately decided Rollins was the perfect fit.
Now, as a second-year student in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education, Meron is working on earning an MPH as well as a certificate in maternal and child health. In the process, she has also steadily stacked her resume with practical skills.
During her first year, Meron worked as a graduate assistant for MotherToBaby Georgia through the Rollins Earn and Learn program. This past summer, she served as the principal investigator of a qualitative study that investigated the socio-contextual determinants of neonatal treatment at the community level. And, as part of one of her certificate courses, she assisted the Georgia Department of Public Health with their surveillance system of reported neonatal abstinence syndrome (babies exposed to opioids in the womb).
"I really enjoyed that, because we were able to get real-world experience with a local organization and got to see the process of a project from start to finish," she says. In her most recent position at the CDC, she’s analyzing case report forms for Listeriosis (foodborne illness) to inform recommendations for changes that should be made.
On an international level, Meron returned to Ethiopia for a three-month Global Field Experience over the summer. In addition to sharpening her project management skills, Meron was also able to connect with family members still residing in Ethiopia, some of whom—like her 93-year-old great-granduncle—she met for the first time.
"Being in the field was a really great experience for me, because there’s a lot of things that don’t come up until you’re actually in a study setting … where you have to think quick and weigh the options to make the best possible decision."