Alumni Highlight: Suzanne Perkins ’18

Alumna Suzanne Perkins sporting her well-deserved graduation cap and hood around town.

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

Alumni Highlight: Katlyn Chandler ’18

Alumna Katlyn Chandler (’18) is all about service – helping others and meeting them where they are. Luckily for her, she has found a way to blend her desire to help others with her passion for nutrition.

When Katlyn was in high school, she constantly felt sluggish and made the decision to change her daily habits by eating right and exercising. This decision changed her life, and in turn, she knew she wanted to help others make healthy decisions as well. Although she entered CofC as a biology major, she quickly found out that public health incorporated all her interests: Preventative health, community health, and nutrition. After switching her major, Katlyn’s career launched.

Throughout her time at CofC, Katlyn dived into various volunteer and internship experiences in the Charleston community that took her out of her comfort zone, teaching her how to better serve people who are different than her.

“Going out into the community and getting to know people through volunteering is a great way to get you out of your shell and see people at eye level. Sometimes we think we can solve a large issue, but you don’t know what a community needs until you are working directly with them.”

For Katlyn, this looked like interning with the Ryan White Wellness Center that served the Eastside community by caring for their health needs. Through this internship, Katlyn was able to find ways for clients to receive nutritional supplemental drinks with a local vendor, file health insurance information, and shadow physicians. She also served with the Lowcountry Herald where she helped supply food and clothing for the homeless. Through each of her experiences during college, she gained a deeper understanding of how to use her studies to serve others well.

Upon graduation, Katlyn decided to go directly into the workforce. As she searched for jobs, she initially looked past an opportunity with the Lowcountry Food Bank because she saw the phrase public speaking in the job title and was nervous about performing this task. Despite being nervous about the public speaking aspect, she reconsidered and decided to apply so she could learn more about what this position truly entailed. After interviewing, she felt more confident about pursuing this role, and she began serving as an AmeriCorps for the Lowcountry Food Bank as the Program Coordinator of “Cooking Matters.” This program helps low-income families shop and eat healthier on a budget. In partnership with other organizations, she hosted 6-week classes to teach how to prepare food and provide nutrition lessons. It turns out that the very aspect that made her initially hesitant to apply – public speaking – is now something she loves to do! She fell in love with her career, and after completing her year term in this role, she landed a position as a Nutrition Education Specialist for the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (SC DHEC).

Katlyn currently serves low-income communities in this role within the Women, Infants, and Children department. She loves that she gets to work with different types of people such as children from 0-5 years of age, prenatal moms, and post-partum women by discussing breastfeeding, promoting physical activity, and providing healthy recipes for picky eaters. Additionally, she provides nutrition health assessments and offers food benefits, but tailored in a way that is most optimal for their health.

“My favorite part is talking to a client who is really open to nutrition education and having them learn something they never knew before. I love seeing the lightbulb go off in their heads. Many people think everything has to change for nutrition, but you can actually make small changes to become healthier.”

Alumna Katlyn Chandler has successfully used her passion for nutrition to serve the Charleston community.


-Camille Hamrick, Career Counselor

Student Spotlight: Emilia Olson

Emilia Olson is a certified EMT and leader of sustainability at the College of Charleston. During the Spring semester of her freshman year, Emilia decided to take an EMS course advertised by the College’s pre-med fraternity, AED, to gain clinical experience with her studies. The semester-long program trains students who wish to work for CofC EMS and other EMS companies. As an aspiring international healthcare clinician, Emilia knew this opportunity would give her valuable experience. The course offers eight hours of lecture and lab a week, ride alongs, and a psychomotor and cognitive exam. By the end of the program, students are certified through the National Registry and South Carolina.

Emilia Olson is a junior at the Honors College of Charleston from Summerville, South Carolina. She is double majoring in International Studies and Public Health with a concentration in Latin American Studies on the pre-med track. She chose the College for the location, the scholarship and study abroad opportunities, and the CofC Honors College. After graduation, Emilia plans to pursue a Master’s Degree in Global Health and attend medical school. She hopes to work in the field of international health and practice as a clinician to promote sustainable health systems around the world. Emilia chose her majors because she wanted to have an interdisciplinary background that encompassed current global politics and how policy is determined to influence peoples’ health. Her Latin American Studies concentration allows her to learn about the variety of cultures in the region as well as the intersection between those ancient cultures and globalization. In addition to studying Latin America, Emilia is the founder of Amanecer Textiles, a reusable tote bag non-profit in the region. The business “promotes economic exchange and women’s economic empowerment” with women in Guatemala. Amanecer Textiles advances sustainability and eco-friendly practices in both Guatemala and the U.S. by developing reusable and affordable products.

On a local scale, Emilia is also helping the community by volunteering for the student-run CofC EMS and working for a private company in Charleston. One of the most important parts of volunteering on campus for Emilia is the opportunity to play a clinical role in people’s lives and, at the same time, providing a service that is free of charge. On the other hand, Emilia’s experience working for the private EMT company confirms to her that there are many issues with the US Healthcare system, especially during the times of the pandemic. She saw how the social determinants of health manifested along social and economic lines because of the cost of utilizing the services. This is not a barrier for patients that are aided through CofC EMS.

Emilia recommends any students interested in medical school to consider becoming an EMT and gain valuable medical experience that is community-focused. Not only do students earn clinical hours, but they also gain experience with emergency patient care that is not available in the classroom.

“EMS is the only position you can have as an undergraduate to be as self-sufficient as a medical care provider. With CofC EMS, you’re volunteering and helping the local Charleston community.”

CofC offers a discount for students who wish to learn and volunteer with CofC EMS after certification.


-Christina Ferrell, Peer Career Advisor

Student Spotlight: Vi Truong

Student Spotlight: Vi Truong

Vi Truong is a Biology major and Chemistry minor on the pre-med track from Columbia, South Carolina. She chose the College of Charleston for the affordability, the inclusive and diverse atmosphere, and the small campus community. She also likes the close proximity to MUSC and the research and internship opportunities for CofC students. Her interest in health and medicine has propelled her to become involved in an opportunity to study chemicals found in many products that are not regulated by the FDA.

During the Summer of 2020, Vi was accepted into a research program through the CofC Biology Department with her Microbiology professor, Dr. Matthew Rhodes, and has received a financial grant from the College for research and conducting labs. The program studies Obesegens, a chemical that the FDA does not regulate, but includes in many products. It can affect one’s gut health and may increase one’s chances of becoming obese. She obtained the position by networking at a mixer held by the School of Sciences and Mathematics. As such, Vi can testify to the role networking can play in finding opportunities. She says,

Build a relationship with your professor. Once you establish that connection and show your responsibility, it can take you far in your college career and it’s also good to have someone to write a letter of recommendation for the future.

After graduation, Vi plans to travel and learn more about global health and traditional medicine, then attend medical school. Although she is very driven in her studies, Vi recognizes the importance of being involved in activities outside of class.

Balance your work and make the most of your time at the College and extracurricular activities!

Just like Vi, your time at CofC can be maximized by networking, participating in opportunities that allow you to learn more about your field, and participating in fun extracurricular activities!


-Christina Ferrell, Peer Career Advisor