Student Profile: Destany Ware

Pursuing a Master of Public Health degree in the midst of a pandemic has allowed Destany Ware to gain a first-hand understanding of the importance and breadth of public health.

“As someone with a broad range of passions, this degree allows me to be as interdisciplinary as I desire. Public health allows me to serve the community, alongside physicians and other clinicians who serve the individual. Public health is ultimately the past, present, and future of medicine.”

Master of Public Health with a concentration in Epidemiology

Summer 2022

Bachelor of Science in Sociology, Minor in Chemistry, Georgia Southwestern State University

Stockbridge, Georgia

Why did you choose to pursue an MPH degree? Why UGA? 

Upon finishing my bachelor’s degree, I knew that practicing medicine was not the ideal career for me, but I still wanted to be involved in the healthcare industry in another way.  Public health interested me because of its impact and the importance in everyone’s life. Public health is broad—it allows me  to do research, better the system, advocate for change, and work alongside front-line healthcare workers. As someone with a broad range of passions, this degree allows me to be as interdisciplinary as I desire. Public health allows me to serve the community, alongside physicians and other clinicians who serve the individual. Public health is ultimately the past, present, and future of medicine.

The University of Georgia’s College of Public Health has opened the door to opportunities for me. For instance, the faculty members of the CPH are diverse, knowledgeable, and passionate about teaching. We have medical doctors on staff, world-known researchers, and faculty with all kinds of experience to share. UGA provides a multitude of  outreach internship options due to its network of connections throughout the state. A small faculty-to-student ratio for the MPH program allows this program to cater towards your individual career goals.

What particular area/field of Public Health are you passionate about?

I chose to concentrate in Epidemiology due to my love of data and research. I also  have a passion for writing, advocacy, and policy. I knew learning biostatistics and the visual statistical basis of epidemiological research would allow me to conduct research of my own to advocate for necessary change. I feel most drawn to Clinical Epidemiology due to the aspect of serving community members in a clinical setting and providing evidence-based research of on-going medical interests. Within Clinical Epidemiology, I would love to serve alongside a physician conducting clinical trials in the fight of genetic diseases.

What do you plan to do for your internship? 

This summer, I will be interning  with the Center for Asbestos Related Diseases (CARD) located in Libby, Montana. The center is a non-profit clinical research center funded by the CDC to evaluate and maintain asbestos levels in the area. Libby, MT is known to have high rates of asbestos exposure, and as a result a high rate of Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer, due to decades of contamination from vermiculite mining.  As an intern with CARD, I will assist data technicians in maintaining the large database for CARD, assisting in on-going case trials, as well as serve as a clinical research associate. I will work closely with the clinicians at hand to seek patients, screen, and help to implement a treatment strategy that is specific to each patient as well.

Do you have any volunteer experiences that were especially meaningful?

The Sumter Faith Clinic, located in Americus, GA , is a free health clinic for underserved and underinsured members of the community. I was able to serve as a “Nurse-Aid” in this clinic, which opened my eyes to current policy and disparities in the quality of healthcare that was available in the community. I feel this experience alone allowed me to discover my passion for public health.

During the pandemic, many volunteer experiences at UGA have not been hands-on. However, as a member of the Experiential Professional Development program (xPD) advisory board, I regularly meet with and help students prepare for their professional careers, as we set up their professional portfolios.  I also served as an asymptomatic COVID-19 testing volunteer.This experience was meaningful to me because I felt helping make a difference in the on-going pandemic.

What activities/ achievements/awards during your time here are you most proud of?

I represented UGA CPH as a Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health This is Public Health (ASPPH TIPH) Ambassador for the 2021-2022 academic year.  I was also accepted into the Alpha Alpha Alpha (Tri-Alpha) Honors Society for Graduate Students.  As a first generation college student and graduate student, this is a huge deal to my family and me.

Through a graduate assistantship with UGA’s Institute on Human Development and Disabilities, I was able to launch a campaign “It’s a kid’s fight, too,” highlighting school-aged children and their acceptance and understanding of receiving COVID-19 vaccines. This project, which encompasses abled, disabled, diverse, and consensual testimonies from these children, will be showcased in a social media campaign featured on ASPPH’s Instagram and other channels in April 2022.

How has the current pandemic impacted your educational experience at UGA and CPH?

I worked as a case-investigator for the Georgia Department of Public health, as well as  a contact-tracer for the Clarke County School District (CCSD). Similarly, studying epidemiology during a global pandemic made the material seem more relatable and helped me see the immediate need for more professionals in the field of public health.

What insights have you gained as a public health student?

The pandemic has played a huge role in emphasizing the importance of preparing for global outbreaks, as well as allowed us to rethink how to talk to the individual layperson, about what a pandemic is, how vaccines work, and the statistical spread of the pandemic . I truly feel I would not be as comfortable discussing difficult and complex public health topics with  just anyone had I not pursued my studies during the pandemic. I also gained a lot more respect for the healthcare professionals, scientists, and other behind-the-scenes fighters of the pandemic.

What are your plans beyond graduation? 

After graduation, I plan to work at the federal level in clinical trial research and data analysis. My ultimate dream would be to work alongside my “soon-to-be physician” partner in conducting clinical trials.

Posted on March 16, 2022.