Cassandra Oliver, M.P.H.

Research Mentor: April Pettit, M.D., M.P.H.

Thesis Topic: Intimate Partner Violence, Psychological Distress and HIV Testing Among Heterosexually Active Persons at Increased Risk of HIV

Biography
I completed my undergraduate education at Vanderbilt University. I had two majors at Vanderbilt: Anthropology and an interdisciplinary public health focused major titled Medicine, Health, and Society. During my undergraduate degree, I was accepted to participate in a service learning trip where I took a course on the stigma of AIDS in South Africa and spent a month working at a non-government organization servicing children with HIV in Soweto. After I completed my undergraduate education, I continued at Vanderbilt for my MPH with a concentration in Epidemiology. During my MPH training, I worked with Dr. April Pettit and Dr. Peter Rebeiro researching post-partum retention in HIV care and viral suppression. I completed my practicum at the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) in the Viral Hepatitis Section, where I assessed pregnancy status and transmission risk factors in women of reproductive age recently diagnosed with Hepatitis C. After completing my practicum, I was hired to work at TDH part-time while finishing my MPH. For my PhD I am continuing to work with Dr. Pettit and Dr. Rebeiro as well as Dr. Meredith Brantley at TDH where I will work with data from the heterosexual cycle of the National HIV Behavioral Surveillance.

Why Vanderbilt?
I initially chose Vanderbilt for my undergraduate degree because of its interdisciplinary public health major. I have stayed at Vanderbilt for my MPH and now my PHD, because no other schools I applied to seem to have the same dedication to early career researchers as Vanderbilt. The opportunities available to students and the willingness of faculty to assist students is unparalleled. I also appreciated that this PhD program matched students with a research team early on so research could begin immediately and so that classwork incorporated students’ projects making classes not only a learning opportunity, but an opportunity to further one’s own research, as well.