When I enrolled in the master of public health program in Texas I started participating in several NIH-funded projects that focused on empowerment or resilience-based interventions among vulnerable populations. I am particularly interested in designing, implementing and evaluating HIV/AIDS epidemic related programs among vulnerable groups or in resource-constrained settings. Being mentoring by Drs. Han-zhu Qian and Sten Vermund, I am involved in projects on HIV prevention among men who have sex with men in China as well as worldwide. By examining individual and contextual factors, we are trying to curb the HIV epidemic among this at-risk population.
After ten years of working and studying in the field of public health, I gradually realized I have been constrained by not having advanced training in both theories and research methodology. In order to strengthen my skills, broaden my views, and fulfill my career goal as a researcher working in academic institutions where I can conduct culturally-appropriate programs among vulnerable populations, and interpret quantitative data as well as disseminate scientific findings, I decided to obtain an advanced degree in epidemiology at Vanderbilt for the following reasons:
First, the program design provides students advanced quantitative methods and strong theoretical grounding, which are fundamental for conducting research on population-based health issues. As I am constrained by the lack of advanced quantitative training, I would like to take advantage of the quantitative-oriented training to strengthen my data analysis skills and utilize actual data more efficiently. Training in the Vanderbilt PhD in epidemiology is the best fit to my previous clinical training, studies of social and behavioral theories, and actual working experience, which will further provide me with more advanced quantitative skills to help me interpret data and implement advanced scientific research.
Third, the mechanism of the Vanderbilt PhD in epidemiology encourages students to obtain hands-on training by matching students with research preceptor teams to participate in ongoing research projects. Such direct involvement with research will well prepare students to conduct research independently after graduation. As I have been greatly benefited by participating in several ongoing research projects since 2008, I would like to further pursue this line of training by participating in ongoing research projects under the direct supervision and mentoring of my preceptors during my PhD study.
"Stay hungry, stay foolish" - Steve Jobs