Matt Schorr
July 17, 2020

NASHVILLE, Tenn. Public health is Shannon Markus, MD, MPH’s passion. Her primary goal – from her earliest days in college to her current Fellowship with the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance (MVA) – is helping the most vulnerable. To that end, she plans to dedicate herself to the MVA’s community-engaged research initiatives. Those efforts and their goals align with her own ambitions in a significant way.

 

Marrying two ideas

“When I was younger, in early college, I always knew I wanted to be a public servant,” Dr. Markus recalled. “My goal was to help a lot of people, so I initially thought about doing public policy. Eventually, I became more interested in health and pursued both public health and medical careers instead.”

That interest in health, she noted, came from family influence. She already had two relatives in healthcare, and they were eager to see her join them.

“I wondered how to marry these two ideas,” Dr. Markus said. “Being a public servant and fostering good health practices in communities.”

 

Challenging environment

Dr. Markus attended medical school at the University of Pennsylvania, a highly ranked and challenging environment she hoped would push her to the next level. During medical school, she pursed an extra year of study obtaining her Masters in Public Health at the University of Texas Health at Houston.

She then came to Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), where she completed her residency training in Emergency Medicine. She is now joining the Vanderbilt faculty as an emergency department attending physician while also completing a Health Policy and Equity Fellowship and working as a postdoctoral fellow with the MVA.

“I’m very grateful for the flexibility of my home department,” Dr. Markus commented. “The academic leaders of the emergency department afforded me the opportunity to create my own fellowship in order to foster my early career development. This year of study and practical policy and research experience will allow me to develop my ideas and passions early in my academic career.”

 

Community-engaged research

Dr. Markus hopes to better understand the day-to-day functions of community-engaged research and outreach during her time with the MVA. She intends to work on research projects related to health equity and disparity elimination.

“Ten years ago, during my early research into these fields, I felt that initiatives were very much dictated by what health centers thought was important,” she said. “It’s more effective and ethical, however, to listen to voices in the communities we serve in order to effectively meet their health needs.”

 

‘With open arms’

Dr. Markus’ interest in working with the MVA began over three years ago, when MVA Executive Director Consuelo H. Wilkins, MD, MSCI spoke to her incoming intern class. After hearing about the MVA’s efforts, projects and research, Dr. Markus was eager to learn more.

“Everyone recommended I speak with Dr. Wilkins,” she recalled. “Many at Vanderbilt recognized that my ideas and interests were very similar to the work that the MVA was already doing. Upon further research, I realized that our interests were aligned.”

With that in mind, Dr. Wilkins was one of the first mentors Dr. Markus reached out to for a possible fellowship, and she said Dr. Wilkins welcomed her “with open arms.”

 

About the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance

Founded in 1999, the Alliance bridges the institutions of Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Its mission is to enrich learning and advance clinical research in three primary areas -- community engagement, interprofessional education and research -- by developing and supporting mutually beneficial partnerships between Meharry Medical College, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the communities they serve. Through community engagement, the Alliance serves a large community of stakeholders including surrounding universities and colleges, community organizations, faith-based outlets and community health centers. Its interprofessional education enhances students' interdisciplinary understanding and improves patient outcomes through integrated care. The research conducted provides access to experienced grant writers and materials supporting the grant application process and facilitates grant-writing workshops.