The Disease Detective
Epidemiology, MPH ‘19
“The level of collaboration with the CDC is really unique to Rollins. We’re learning from the people who are actually working on outbreaks. I think this has been one of the best parts about being here, not only for the learning opportunities, but for building future connections.”
When she first considered attending Rollins and relocating from Philadelphia to Atlanta, Susanna Trost was concerned about uprooting her life to move so far away. But, when Susanna visited campus in person, the anxiety melted away.
"I was between Rollins and a few other schools," she says, "but I ultimately knew that for what I wanted to do, there was no other school that could offer the level of opportunities, professors, and resources as those at Rollins. Then, when I came to Visit Emory, there was this immediate community feeling. I just knew that this was where I belonged."
Susanna minored in public health during undergrad (she received her bachelor’s in biology) and was eager to build upon her knowledge, particularly as it related to infectious diseases. "I knew I didn’t want to work in a wet lab for the rest of my life," she says. "I loved that epidemiology combined statistics with my biology background, but also health, too."
One of Susanna’s more memorable classroom experiences at Rollins was in Anne Spaulding’s field epidemiology class, which partnered with several CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) officers. "We had two EIS officers come in every week and work through outbreak case studies with us," she says. "The cases were those actually used in EIS training, which was really helpful." The class also brought in several guest lecturers from state and county health departments.
Susanna put her investigative skills into action as she worked on her thesis. Using data collected by the Fulton County Board of Health, and working alongside her thesis advisor, Allison Chamberlain, Susanna looked at the barriers to care and to PrEP use among men who have sex with men in the Atlanta area.
Susanna built upon her public health experience with two Rollins Earn and Learn (REAL) positions. The first was through Emory School of Medicine where she worked on a clinical trial looking at a hypertension drug and whether its use could reduce the risk of someone with mild cognitive impairment progressing to Alzheimer’s disease. Her other position was with CDC’s Division of Global HIV & TB on the Maternal and Infant HIV team. In that role, she worked on data analysis and literature review.
"REAL is such a unique program," she says. "I felt that no other school had anything similar … where you could be working with incredible public health organizations while you’re going to school. I also enjoyed that a lot of Rollins alumni are supervisors, because they’re wonderful mentors."