Student Profile: Erin Adelmeyer

Erin Adelmeyer‘s career journey has taken her many interesting places. Each role, from grade school teacher to workforce analyst to medical services specialist, has played a part in helping foster her interests in social work, public health, and gerontology.

Now a dual Master’s student in the College of Public Health and School of Social Work, Adelmeyer is part of UGA’s effort to improve dementia care access and education in Georgia’s rural communities.

“I want to continue working with people with dementia and their care partners,” she said. “I’d like to create community-led education and programs and help people see the beauty in caring for those ahead of us on the journey of aging.”

Master of Social Work with a Micro Practice Specialization
Master of Public Health in Gerontology

Master of Science, Mathematics Education Grades 7-12, St. John’s University
Bachelor of Science, Psychology, University of Georgia

August 2024

Fond du Lac, WI

What is your academic/professional background?  

As a high school student, I realized I wanted to experience different careers to understand what people in various professions experience. I’ve been very fortunate in the professional opportunities that have come my way. After receiving my bachelor’s degree, I taught math to transfer school students in Brooklyn. I became technical support to an ed-tech company for a product I loved as a teacher. I learned how large-scale customer service is run as a workforce management specialist at Mailchimp. I taught science to elementary school students. I helped people in different areas of the country find and schedule COVID-19 tests during the height of the pandemic.

Why did you choose to pursue dual master’s degrees in public health AND social work? Why UGA?  

My experiences led to my interest in social work and public health. My time teaching and supporting teachers showed how a person’s environment impacts their life; social work embraces and respects this fact while working with individuals. This point of view, combined with the understanding public health provides of our healthcare system and healthcare needs as a country, are powerful tools for change at individual and community levels. UGA had been a place of great opportunity and growth for me in the past, and I was looking forward to continuing this growth in ways I felt only UGA could support me.

What particular area/field of public health are you passionate about? 

I am passionate about the field of gerontology. Aging is the one experience that we all have in common. Aging, and eventually death, unites us all. My favorite reading is Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

The character Fred describes Christmas Day “when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people [around] them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.*”  * A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, Troll Associates, 1988, page 10.

It is important to recognize that we are all on a difficult journey, and I believe it important to honor those that are ahead of us. This will allow those who follow us to honor us in our time.

What do you consider to be the highlight of your time pursuing your dual master’s degrees? 

The highlight of my time pursuing my dual degree has been the opportunity to work with the Cognitive Aging Research and Education (CARE) Center at CPH’s Institute of Gerontology. It has been amazing to see the power of community-led work.

What did you do for your internships? Why did you pursue this internship? What did you learn? What was your biggest challenge?

My first internship was at a hospital in both the emergency department psychiatric unit and the geriatric psychiatric unit. (As a dual student, I will complete two internships.)

I wanted to learn about the fields of social work and public health in one of the more intense environments where you see the result of the interaction of our healthcare system, insurance, laws, social values, and individual environments, and what happens when this doesn’t always serve our community in the way we want or expect.

I learned that we have much work to do in prevention within the healthcare industry. Prevention means far more than a basic checkup by a primary care physician. Many healthcare costs could be avoided and used for other concerns within the system. I saw firsthand how understaffed and overworked people on the front lines of healthcare are and how many people do not have access to proper care after they leave the hospital.

The biggest challenge I faced in my internship was hearing how strongly many people speak about the healthcare system without having experienced the challenges of working in the system and also seeing laws created on different healthcare matters without an understanding of how they will be carried out, what additional pressures are placed on already overworked nurses, doctors, and other workers.

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

I am proud of my work at the CARE Center in rural health education. I created lesson plans for managing behaviors related to dementia and how to recognize the signs of cognitive decline. I’ve also been trained to teach unpaid care partners how to care for their care recipients who have dementia.

Do you have any volunteer experiences that were especially meaningful? 

My mom worked with developmentally disabled youth and adults throughout my childhood and encouraged me to volunteer. I was given the opportunity and trusted to do many things, including running a computer class for developmentally disabled adults. I created the programs, managed logistics, and taught each week. My mom is responsible for many aspects of who I am and my affinity for developing public health programs.

Do you have any extracurricular interests that you enjoy? 

All my time away from school and work is spent with my 14 month-old daughter. It is gratifying to watch and help her learn new concepts and to learn her personality as she grows.

What insights have you gained as a public health student? 

We need strong leaders who can understand a problem, how it impacts specific communities,  and most importantly, how to listen to the community about their needs. We need people who understand the barriers specific communities have with health concerns and how to empower the community to overcome those barriers.

What are your plans beyond graduation?

 I want to continue working with people with dementia and their care partners. I’d like to create community-led education and programs and help people see the beauty in caring for those ahead of us on the journey of aging.

Posted April 18, 2024.