Alumna Suzanne Perkins’ (’18) studies in epidemiology came to life just 6 weeks after starting her full-time job in February 2020. Suzanne works as a Statistical Research Analyst at MUSC, and although her position is designed to focus on research, she quickly adapted and jumped right in to assist other areas of MUSC with their COVID response, including family medicine response and setting up proper communications. In addition to earning her Master’s degree in Public Health with a concentration in Epidemiology from Emory University, CofC’s Public Health program helped prepare her to succeed in this role during the pandemic.
Suzanne entered the public health program as a non-traditional student. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to study directly after high school, so she started working full-time at a dental office while figuring it all out. It was through this experience that she recognized her interest in the medical profession. However, she realized that working directly with patients in a hands-on environment was not for her. As she took these self-discoveries into consideration, she learned that CofC was launching a new public health program that brought all of her interests together. She was excited about all the possibilities her degree could lead to upon enrolling in the program:
“There are so many different fields that public health touches and different areas you can go into: Clinical, government, non-profit, and for-profit. Through my classes, I ended up loving epidemiology and decided to get my master’s in that.”
As Suzanne worked toward her public health degree throughout her time at CofC, she balanced full-time classes with part-time employment at the dental office that inspired her studies, as well as countless hours of volunteer work. Her determination and hard work paid off, leading to her successful completion of a master’s degree and securing a job position that she loves.
Aside from stepping in to assist with MUSC’s COVID response, Suzanne’s role as a Statistical Research Analyst allows her to work with 5 doctors that conduct research, each on a specific area: Breast cancer, prostate cancer, homelessness, LGBTQ health, and pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP). Suzanne assists these doctors by setting up studies and identifying what questions they are seeking to answer, who to target, and how to best run the studies. After conducting the studies and all the data has been collected, she analyzes the data, which is her favorite part of the job. In this role, she incorporates concepts learned at CofC regularly.
“You cover so much information in this [public health] program that it sets you up so well for any direction you could go in. [For instance,] I use behavioral science information and program planning that I learned at CofC in my job now.”
Additionally, Suzanne has found success in her career by demonstrating professionalism, arriving to her commitments on time, and not being afraid to ask questions.
“The doctors you are working with have so much going on and their time is so valuable…. If you show up on time and are willing to learn, they are more than willing to help you. In a clinical setting, it is even more crucial to be on time. Even in a setting where you are not the most knowledgeable, this sets you up for people to want to work with you and help you learn.”
-Camille Hamrick, Career Counselor