UGA Amazing Student: Frances Dean

Frances Dean has taken advantage of hands-on lab research, study abroad and service-learning projects that will help her reach her goal of becoming an epidemiologist so she can work with an international aid society to develop treatment plans for marginalized populations.


New Orleans, Louisiana/Dallas, Texas (since 2005)

High school:

Bishop Lynch High School

Current employment:

I am an undergraduate research assistant with the Sexual Technologies and Risk Reduction Lab. I have been working under this lab since junior year and have had the pleasure of working with Drs. Callands, Hansen, Lauckner and Swartzendruber.

I’m also a research intern at the CDC’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity.

Family ties to UGA:

Not too long ago, I found out that my godmother’s husband is a UGA alumnus! She hopes that her kids get a chance to attend UGA in the near future.

Expected graduation:

Spring 2018

Degree objective:

B.S.H.P – Bachelor of Science in Health Promotion and Behavior

Other degrees:

Certificate – Global Health

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

Since my matriculation sophomore year (fall 2015) into UGA, I have not only grown as a UGA student, but as an overall person. One of the first opportunities I took advantage of was participating in one of the University of Georgia Costa Rica programs. This was my first time pursuing a study abroad program at UGA, and I did not regret one bit of it. This could not have happened without being awarded a scholarship from UGACR to help defray the cost. During this trip, I learned about the function and use of Global Positioning System hardware and Geographic Information System software. This gave me a sense of how tools are applied in a STEM field other than my own and how they are used to achieve sustainability. All of the bird-seeing trips, tourist sightseeing, peer interactions and service-learning experiences opened my eyes to the importance of environmental health and the beauty of Costa Rica!

During my junior and senior years, I was awarded two scholarships from the Disability Resource Center. One scholarship that was awarded to me was the Weldon Johnson Access Abroad Award, and this past November, I was awarded the Michael E. Merriman Memorial Scholarship. As an out-of-state student, both scholarships helped defray the cost of me attending UGA. I cannot thank the DRC committee enough for supporting me in my transition to UGA’s academic and social environment.

This past summer before senior year, I got a chance to participate in one of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Undergraduate Public Health Scholar programs by interning through Project IMHOTEP. Through this program, I networked with CDC personnel and conducted my first research project off-site at Morehouse School of Medicine. Not only was this my first project, but this also gave me an opportunity to present at the 17th Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students this past November. The American Society of Microbiology was kind enough to offer me a full scholarship for travel and food expenses while I got to present.

Currently, for my 300-hour internship (as part of a major requirement), I am a health equity research intern at the CDC’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity. Right now, my supervisor and I are working to develop bibliographies for the Office of the Director, plan subcommittees involving CDC directors and university professors, and a library for those who are interested in health equity-related work. I am enjoying getting to know CDC personnel and fellow interns while working with them on a daily basis — all while celebrating OMHHE’s 30th anniversary.

At UGA’s College of Public Health, my research assistantship involves working with a doctoral student on her dissertation project as well as collaborating with two of the principal investigators in the Sexual Technologies and Risk Reduction Lab. Because of both opportunities, I was selected to present at two additional conferences this year — the CDC Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System workshop in April and the Society for Epidemiologic Research in June. By taking on these opportunities, I will hopefully become a stronger researcher and potential public health scientist.

Besides conducting research, I am also an active peer educator on behalf of Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention, housed in the University Health Center. Since joining this group junior year, I have been able to gain the tools to advocate for assault prevention on and off campus, as well as incorporate my activities into my desired career in public health (specifically, health promotion, behavior and epidemiology).

What’s next for me after UGA? Well, I anticipate working with Dr. Barbara Karp as a National Institutes of Health summer fellow within the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke. We are looking into many projects, such as discussing possible ways to protect vulnerable populations before and after conducting research studies. This will be taking place within the Combined NeuroScience Institutional Review Board department at the NINDS/NIH.

Through being a UGA student, I have had a chance of taking on these opportunities, both on and off campus. I am excited to see where all of these experiences will take me next!

I chose to attend UGA because …

… of the fact that UGA offered an undergraduate public health-based program. Initially, I wanted to pursue a career in nursing. However, I wanted a more comprehensive view of human health, so that’s when I fell in love with the College of Public Health and its resources. This university is also not too far from home, and there are so many people here who I have enjoyed getting to know!

My favorite things to do on campus are …

… to explore North Campus. Beyond the Arch, there are some beautiful parts of that campus that I cannot stop visiting. The fountain and Chapel bell are, by far, the best things that (I think) make up that part of campus!

When I have free time, I like …

… to try out ALL the restaurants near Athens. So far, I have been to The Globe, Taqueria Tsunami, The Grit and The Grill. When I have more free time, I have to check out the “hotspot” restaurants I keep hearing about.

The craziest thing I’ve done is …

… travel to Toronto, Canada, by myself! It was my first time traveling alone, and I must say, it was more thrilling than I imagined it to be. I even went on the tallest floor of the CN Tower and walked on its glass floors. As someone who does not like heights, I highly recommended it!

My favorite place to study is …

… the MLC. The study rooms are spacious and useful, but knowing UGA, I have to get there early and quick in order to have my own quiet space to myself. Of course, I would not blame anyone for always going there, especially during finals.

My favorite professor is …

… so hard to choose. I have met many great professors in my life, but I would have to say Dr. Christina Proctor and Dr. Juliet Sekandi. In and out of class, I have had the pleasure of getting to know their daily lives, their interests and how their research intersects with my growing research interests. Those two are the best to me, hands down!

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with …

… Mariska Hargitay. Besides being a great actress, she is inspiring, intelligent and full of delight! I especially admire her for advocating sexual violence prevention while being a full-time actress on “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.”

If I knew I could not fail, I would …

… go on a TV show and compete to win prizes. Shows like “Fear Factor” or “Ellen’s Game of Games” seem so fun, but I am always too scared to try out those types of activities.

If money was not a consideration, I would love to …

… travel. All day, every day. I have traveled to Italy, Canada and Costa Rica. All beautiful places and fun activities to do. I really want to check out London and Ireland soon, as well as other places on my travel bucket list.

What is your passion and how are you committed to pursuing it?

I want to become an epidemiologist; furthermore, I hope to work with an international aid society and develop treatment plans for marginalized populations. I see myself taking an epidemiologic approach to examine issues of mental health stigmatization in African-American (and other marginalized) communities, learning how to disseminate the data to those communities and working with the communities to develop long-term intervention plans. With the power of social and behavioral research, I hope to achieve these goals in the future.

After graduation, I plan to …

… obtain a Master of Science in Public Health and Ph.D. in Epidemiology. Then, I can be a mental health/behavioral health analyst at the CDC, National Institutes of Health or a nonprofit organization.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be …

… #ServiceisLoveMadeVisible: My winter break experience with IMPACT on the shelter and resource access! This was a great service-learning trip and I have had great memories with this IMPACT group while being in Savannah. I had the opportunity to connect many of our projects to public health-related work. Most importantly, I have made friends with this wonderful group and have kept in contact ever since. I will never forget this trip and recommend it to anyone who loves participating in active community service with a great group of people!

Learn more about the Amazing Students at UGA here.