Student Profile: Mechelle Claridy

Mechelle Claridy, who is pursing a doctoral degree in epidemiology and biostatistics at the College of Public Health, is not only passionate about advancing care for mothers and infants, but thrives on gaining new knowledge in her field and beyond.

“Although we may be exhausted at times physically, our minds are always ready and able to learn,” says Claridy.

May 2022

Doctor of Philosophy in Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Bachelor of Science in Biology, Spelman College
Master of Public Health in Epidemiology, Morehouse School of Medicine

Fayetteville, North Carolina

What research are you passionate about? How did you become involved in your field?

I am very passionate about maternal and child health. When I was six weeks old, I lost my mother due to pregnancy-related complications. My mother is the driving force behind my research and is the reason that I am passionate about advancing care and ensuring mothers and infants from all backgrounds thrive.

What exciting projects are you working on? 

I am currently working on my dissertation research entitled, “The predictors and correlates associated with severe maternal morbidity and in-hospital deaths in the United States.” My dissertation aims to understand the predictors and correlates of severe maternal morbidity and mortality in the United States. In addition to my dissertation research, I am also working with the Practice, Research, and Mentorship in Epidemiology (PRIME) workgroup on understanding COVID-19 and mental health among college students. I also recently submitted three manuscripts, two on obesity and pharmacotherapy and one on obesity in those with disabilities.

What attracted you to your graduate program at the College of Public Health?

I chose UGA to complete my doctoral degree because I was impressed with the remarkable selection of faculty and the courses offered by the College of Public Health as well as the Epidemiology and Biostatistics department.

What do you consider to be the highlight of your time at the College (so far)?

The highlight of my time at the College so far has been working with the Practice, Research and Mentorship in Epidemiology (PRIME) workgroup. With other doctoral students, I co-lead the PRIME workgroup, a multidisciplinary research and training group for graduate and undergraduate students interested in using epidemiological methods to study public health issues ranging from infant and maternal health to the surveillance and control of infectious disease and environmental exposures. I manage both undergraduate and graduate students. I have conducted research studies on one of the largest maternal cohorts to examine environmental exposures and their impact on maternal and child health outcomes. I have also worked with birth certificate data to examine the associations between certain predictors and maternal and child health outcomes.

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

While at UGA, I have been inducted into the Delta Omega Honorary Society in Public Health and the UGA Blue Key National Honor Society. Additionally, I was awarded the Orlin K. Fletcher, Jr. Scholarship and co-authored a few publications with my classmates.

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

I think I have been able to get the most out of my educational experience at UGA and CPH during this pandemic. I have still been able to work with my classmates and meet with my committee members via Zoom or other virtual settings. Desperate times call for desperate measures and I will say that I have been able to push through my educational experience the best way possible given the circumstances.

What insights have you gained as a public health student?

I have gained so much insight as a public health student at UGA. One insight is that “learning never exhausts the mind.” Now, although we may be exhausted at times physically, ours mind are always ready and able to learn. I have learned so much throughout my entire life and I will continue to learn for the rest of my life, even when I am no longer a student.

Also, getting a public health degree during a pandemic has helped me understand how interdisciplinary work is so crucial to the success of public health. Clinicians, epidemiologists, biostatisticians, health researchers and scientists, etc. must all work together to drive public health action and advance policy that ensures the health of everyone.

Do you have any external activities that you are passionate about?

I am very passionate about better understanding and addressing maternal health inequities and am excited about being invited to be a part of the research workgroup for the Black Mamas Matter Alliance. In addition, during my spare time, I love cooking, eating, traveling, and spending time with my family and friends. 

What are your plans beyond graduation?

My ultimate goal in life is to advance the quality of maternal and child data for public health action. I also want to use this data to advance policy that addresses maternal health inequities and improves maternal health outcomes. I want to do this by working in private or government public health organizations to lead community engaged and applied epidemiology projects and programs.

Posted on September 30, 2021.