Chase Reece, an aspiring physician and Double Dawg student in the College of Public Health, is passionate about community health and improving the health outcomes of rural communities like the one he grew up in.
“I believe that preventive medicine is one of the best solutions to improving the health outcomes for rural communities and should be focused on more, and I hope to be a part of the solution as a future physician,” he said.
Bachelor of Science in Health Promotion (BSHP), Emphasis in Behavioral Medicine (‘24)
Master of Public Health (MPH) in Health Policy and Management (‘25)
What attracted you to a degree in the field of public health?
Growing up in a rural area, I witnessed first-hand the health challenges and barriers to care that rural communities face. I had the opportunity to work as a medical assistant at a local primary care clinic in my hometown during high school, and this really opened my eyes to how significant of a problem it is. People living in rural areas typically have worse health outcomes, higher rates of chronic diseases, and lower life expectancies, and this is due to not only physical access to care, but also the underlying socioeconomic factors and social determinants of health. Coming to UGA, I knew that I wanted to pursue a degree in public health so that I can work on reducing these barriers and improving the health of rural and underserved communities in the future.
Why did you choose your particular concentration? What motived to pair an MPH with your undergraduate degree as well?
I chose the Behavioral Medicine emphasis because I am on the pre-med track, and I believe it will allow me to best serve my patients in my future career as a physician. This emphasis has taught me how to incorporate the principles of disease prevention and lifestyle changes into the clinical setting, which I think is really important for improving health outcomes.
I also decided to work towards my MPH in Health Policy through the Double Dawgs program because it will equip me with the needed skills to expand access to care for rural populations and give me the opportunity to work towards creating lasting changes for the community that I am in.
What do you consider to be the highlight of your time as a public health student?
There have been many different highlights but overall, my favorite experience as a public health student has been the meaningful connections I have made with my professors and classmates. The professors in the College of Public Health have so much great knowledge to share, and they have been really helpful and supportive in allowing us to develop our interests within the field, connecting us with purposeful opportunities and experiences, and preparing us for whatever our future may hold. I really wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of my classmates and professors.
Are you engaged in any interesting research or outreach projects?
This past year I had the privilege of participating in the inaugural cohort of the PROPEL Rural Scholars program through the Carl Vinson Institute of Government. I’ve always been interested in government and community development, and this opportunity allowed me to work on an applied research project and learn about how community development directly impacts the overall health and wellbeing of a community. I also was able to see what engaging and equipping a community looks like in action, which is of course something we learn about as public health students.
This year I have the opportunity of working with Dr. Christina Proctor on her research regarding the health of rural farmers. Currently, we are studying the mental health of rural farmers and some of the unique challenges they face, in addition to barriers of care. Even though I have only been working with her for a short period of time, I have already learned a tremendous amount. It has been really interesting to actually be a part of the research process and witness the meaningful results that come out of it and continuing to work with Dr. Proctor is probably what I am most looking forward to during the remainder of my time at UGA.
Do you have any volunteer experiences that were especially meaningful?
I’ve had the opportunity to volunteer at a few different places here in Athens, but I would say the most meaningful was my time as a triage volunteer at Mercy Health Center. Being able to provide free care to those who need it most was a really amazing experience, and it was great to be able to let others know that they are seen and cared for when they are often at some of their lowest points. This experience was also influential because it opened my eyes to a lot of the challenges that people with low-income face that I can hopefully work towards improving both as a public health professional and as a physician.
What activities and achievements during your time here are you most proud of?
I’ve recently been selected to serve on the Dean’s Advisory Council for the College of Public Health and the newly created Health Promotion Student Engagement Committee as one of the co-chairs. I am both thankful and proud to have the opportunity to celebrate the successes of my classmates and voice their needs on these committees, and I am excited to see what we accomplish together.
Do you have any external activities that you are passionate about?
Currently, I represent the ALL Georgia program as a Rural Student Ambassador. This program aims to develop community between rural students across the state and help them get plugged into UGA and call it home. In addition to community engagement and involvement opportunities, the program is able to provide resources for professional development and academic coaching so that students get the most out of their time at UGA. As a rural student, I know how hard it can be coming from a small school with limited resources to the University of Georgia, and it can be a bit overwhelming so being able to help and support other rural students has been a great experience.
What insights have you gained as a public health student?
Overall, I have learned how our health and wellbeing is so much more complex than just our physical health and healthcare. While having access to affordable, high-quality healthcare is certainly a major component of our health, our health is also influenced by many other things, including our background, education, economic stability, and the physical and built environment–and this is only naming a few. By having a more well-rounded knowledge of the factors that impact our health, I believe that I will be a more effective healthcare and public health professional in the future.
What are your plans after graduation?
After graduation, I plan to complete my MPH and then attend medical school. I am really passionate about community health and improving the health of rural communities, so I am primarily looking at programs that specifically focus on rural medicine. In the future, I hope to practice medicine as a primary care physician in a rural setting, while also drawing on my background in public health. I believe that preventive medicine is one of the best solutions to improving the health outcomes for rural communities and should be focused on more, and I hope to be a part of the solution as a future physician.
Posted November 16, 2023.