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Kelsey Gleason Donovan Joins UVM with a Focus on Global Health

Helping to teach public health in a refugee camp on the Thai-Burma border opened Kelsey Gleason Donovan’s eyes to the need for building capacity and empowering communities to improve sustainable health practices.

As a graduate teaching fellow in the Harvard School of Public Health four years ago, Donovan traveled to the Umpiem Mai refugee camp near Mae Sot, Thailand, twice—first to study public health with Burmese refugees and later to help teach a public health field course.

“The experience solidified my desire to teach global public health,” says Donovan, who joined the UVM Larner College of Medicine as an Assistant Professor and will teach in the UVM Public Health program.  “Most of the students there had never been outside of the refugee camp, but they were using a local public health program as a way to help their community.”

According to the World Health Organization, most low- to middle-income countries have to cope with a wide range of health problems that interfere with their economic development. Public health is a major priority, especially to address the spread of AIDS, tuberculosis and common infectious diseases, as well as the rise of chronic disease epidemics. A trained workforce of health professionals is essential in these countries. However, there is a lack of adequate capacity.

“There is a need for public health in the global health sphere,” says Donovan, who has researched and worked in countries such as Myanmar, Bangladesh, Kenya, Haiti, Ethiopia, and East Timor. “What I’m passionate about is building capacity. It’s not about teaching and then leaving. It’s better to build capacity so community members can do things themselves. Teaching communities basic public health concepts can have a huge impact.”

Teaching at UVM

Donovan, a New Hampshire native, studied at Cornell and Harvard and is trained in environmental epidemiology. The flexibility and innovation of the UVM Master of Public Health online program—as well as an opportunity to help build the program’s global health curriculum—drew her to UVM.

The 42-credit online program can be completed in two years. Many students in the program are working professionals—including some who work outside of health care.

“What’s so great about public health is how broad it is. There’s no one career that is defined by public health. You can be a public health generalist or have a specialty. This program allows you to explore entirely different areas of public health and choose what you want to do.”

That’s exactly what happened to Donovan when she was a student. As an undergraduate at Cornell, Donovan assumed she would go into medicine. Then she learned about public health during her senior year, and it changed everything.

“I felt that public health better matched my style and what I wanted to do. Medicine is so wonderful and necessary, but I like the population health aspect more,” she says. “What I love so much about public health is that you have the ability to help and change communities.”

Learn about the UVM Master of Public Health Program.

 

Making the Leap from Working Professional to Nursing Student

Kim O’Leary made the leap from health care communications professional to medical student and never looked back.

After completing UVM’s Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medical Program in 2017, O’Leary will join the College of Nursing and Health Sciences this fall to pursue a doctorate of nursing practice degree.

O’Leary, who lives with her husband, Dave, and their two children in Essex, started the post-bac program at UVM with her sights set on becoming a doctor. But after one semester in the post-bac program’s pre-med track, she did some soul searching and switched to the program’s nurse practitioner track.

“I realized that being a nurse practitioner was a better fit for me. I really like the philosophy of nursing practice,” she says. “I want to work in primary care and I can do that as a nurse practitioner in much the same way as I could have as a primary care MD, without an additional three years of residency beyond the four years of this program.  It just seemed like a no brainer.”

O’Leary explains that nurse practitioners (NPs) tend to have more patient facetime than physicians and typically take a holistic approach to their patient’s overall health and wellness.

“The program track I am on will enable to me to provide primary care to adults, and in particular, geriatric patients. Older patients need a provider who can sit with them, understand their complex care needs, and help address social and environmental barriers to providing them the best possible care.”

Gaining Hands-on Medical Experience at UVM

To gain more clinical experience, O’Leary has been working at UVM Medical Center’s cardiology department as a technician, conducting stress tests, EKGs, and other non-invasive procedures. She works with patients of all ages, but has connected especially with the most senior patients. “They’re funny, smart, and they’ve got a lot going on health wise,” she says.

When O’Leary first applied to the post-bac program, she wanted to be an obstetrician.

“But having worked with older people, I realized how drawn I am to them and how I love listening to their life stories,” she says. “Older patients tend to have a healthier perspective, and I’ve learned a lot from them.”

Working in medicine is something O’Leary has thought about her entire life. As a child, her favorite book was a medical dictionary her parents kept in the house. While she was an undergraduate at Colby College, she was trying to decide whether to study English or medicine. “I was drawn to medicine, but I found it too intimidating at the time,” she says, explaining she opted to be an English major instead.

But medicine has been part of O’Leary’s career for more than a decade. She worked for the Vermont Agency of Human Services and later at UVM Medical Center’s marketing and communications office.

A Humbling, Life Changing Experience

She decided to take the leap to study medicine a few years ago. Still, going back to school in her 30s came with its own set of challenges.

“It was incredibly humbling. I hadn’t been in school in 15 years. I was required to delve into subjects that don’t come naturally to me, like physics and chemistry, and I had to really work hard to get good grades,” she says. “I was 36 and my lab partners were 18–young enough to be my children! I was used to working in the communications field, where I knew I was good at what I did. But as I headed into the post-bac program, I was starting from the bottom all over again.”

What has been the most rewarding for O’Leary is challenging herself and following her heart. “We’re all capable of doing great things—we just have to try,” she says.

Learn more about UVM’s Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medical Program.

 

Public Health Student to Champion Organ Donation at Miss America

By Amanda Brooks

Julia Crane is not your average 22-year-old graduate student.

While writing her thesis for her master’s in public health at the University of Vermont, the Colchester native has been juggling radio and newspaper interviews, conducting goat races, running with dogs for the humane society and speaking with young women about leadership all around Vermont.

Why is she so busy? On May 25, Crane was crowned Miss Vermont 2018.

The next day, Crane was launched into her “year of service” as Miss Vermont, a full-time job as a spokeswoman, advocate and community leader. Crane is already hard at work promoting her initiative titled “Be a Hero: Be an Organ Donor,” which urges people to consider registering as an organ donor.

“Every day, 22 people die who could have been saved with an organ donation,” Crane said. “Just one donation can save eight lives.”

Conversations about Organ Donation

Crane got involved with organ donation because of her best friend, Courtney, who lives with cystic fibrosis and is currently on the transplant list for a double lung transplant.

“When somebody you love is sick or hurt and they’re in the hospital, you want to do anything you can to help them,” Crane said.

Crane urges people to consider registering as organ donors and says it is an easy process through Registerme.org, Donate Life’s national donor registry. “You can even do it right on your health app on your iPhone,” Crane said.

However, the most important part about becoming an organ donor is having the conversation with your family, she said.

“If one of your family members isn’t comfortable with you becoming an organ donor, tell them why you want to be one,” Crane advised. “I know it’s a hard conversation to have, but by having that conversation, you have the ability to be a real-life superhero to somebody in need.”

Bringing Attention to Important Issues

Crane is eager for the recent changes to the Miss America competition, which she believes will help her to better promote her platform.

On June 5, The Miss America Organization announced it will drop the swimsuit portion of the competition beginning this year, replacing it with a live, on-stage interview.

Additionally, the evening gown section of the night will shift to evening attire in general, allowing contestants to wear an outfit of their choosing while discussing their social impact platforms. The competition will also no longer be called a pageant.

“Miss America will represent a new generation of female leaders focused on scholarship, social impact, talent and empowerment,” Miss America board chairwoman Gretchen Carlson said in a news release.

She noted these changes are in response to “a cultural revolution in our country.”

For nearly 100 years, Miss America contestants have been judged on talent, an interview and an on-stage question, as well as their performance in swimwear and evening gowns. This year’s changes will eliminate physical appearance from the judging criteria, a press release says.

“I am so excited that we get to speak more on our social impact issue and our platform,” Crane said. “I am completely behind the changes they have decided to make, and I want to be the Miss America that represents empowerment.”

The Miss Vermont Scholarship Organization will also alter its judging criteria to reflect changes to the national competition.

“The changes to the competition will allow the judges even more opportunity to evaluate each contestant’s ability to do [her] job,” executive director Barbara Wilkinson said. “We look forward to implementing the changes at our competition next year as we see our contestants and the organization grow together to redefine what it means to be Miss America.”

Vermont is the only state to never have placed in the Top 15 at the Miss America competition. Crane wants to be the first.

“Of course I have my eye on the title of Miss America,” she admitted. “My upbringing in Colchester really helped raise me and shape me into the Miss Vermont I am today, and I would want to continue representing Vermont as Miss America.”

What would it be like to be crowned Miss America this fall?

“It would be crazy,” Crane said. “It would change the impact I could have on a national level to promote organ donation and promote the program.”

-This story was originally published in the Colchester Sun.

Learn more about the UVM Master of Public Health Program

 

After a Devastating Loss, Making a Career Choice to Help Others

Caring for her dying mother changed Betsy Assoumou’s life in every way.

The MBA graduate had been working as a public accountant for a big four accounting firm when her mother entered hospice and died in 2016.  The experience left Betsy grappling with grief and the realization that she wanted to live a different life.

“I fundamentally wasn’t the same person,” she says. “My mother and I walked a path together and with her no longer physically by my side, I didn’t want to continue down that same path.  I wanted to be useful.”

Betsy eventually enrolled in UVM’s Master of Medical Science Program to return to her earlier career plan of working in medicine.

A New Direction

Betsy studied chemistry at Williams College as an undergraduate with plans to become a physician. By her junior year, she instead became interested in business and pursued an MBA at Northeastern.  After earning her business degree, she joined a large accounting firm and became an integral part of the company’s corporate accounting team that took a private software-as-a-service company public on the Nasdaq stock exchange.  For Betsy, it was a thrill to witness the company’s first trades and see pictures of herself and her colleagues in Times Square as part of the celebration.

“At the same time, I was caring for my mother who had a number of health issues over the years.  When my mother’s battle with metastatic breast cancer eventually put her on hospice in early 2016, I asked for a reduced work schedule so I could be present during the last weeks of her life,” she says. “This was a transformative experience.  I cared for my mother as she quickly lost the ability to care for herself as her body succumbed to the havoc of cancer. “

When her mother died, Betsy knew she no longer wanted to work for investors who relied on the financial statements that she helped to prepare as an accountant. She returned to her original career goal of caring for people.

“I wanted to help real people who I could see, touch, comfort, and empathize with,” she says.  “This desire motivated me to pick up where I left off to pursue becoming a physician before I took a detour into business.”

Enrolling in UVM’s advanced science graduate program

Betsy hadn’t taken a science course in nearly seven years.  So, she enrolled in UVM’s Master of Medical Science Program to prove that she could handle the rigors of medical school.  The most impactful part of the 12-month program was the gross anatomy class.

“First, for me personally it represented such a dramatic shift in my life.  On a Friday I was packing up my accounting desk and on the very next Monday I was placing scalpels blades on scalpels in order to perform my first cadaver dissection,” she says. “I learned a tremendous amount about the body and how it’s various structures and organism integrate to facilitate life.  Being able to hold a heart and see first-hand how the chambers interconnect is an experience I’ll never forget. Besides the hands-on learning, I gained tremendous respect for the cadavers and their gift to medical education.”

For now, Betsy is leaving her career plans open to all possibilities.

“I don’t want to get too focused on any one plan at the risk of ignoring what I really enjoy doing. My experience with my mom showed me that I wanted to dedicate the rest of my life to helping people through medically trying times,” she says.  “Whether that be in hospice or geriatric care at the end of life or pediatrics at the beginning of life, I’m open to learning more to see where I fit and could be the most useful.”

Learn about UVM’s Master of Medical Science Program

 

How Facing Our Fear of Death Fosters a Sense of Empowerment

By Kate Whitney

If your career involved conversations about life support options, meditations on death, and funeral plans for the dying, one might be surprised to learn that it’s not all gloom and doom. For death doula Alua Arthur, who recently shared her story on Refinery29, the idea that supporting palliative care patients through the process of dying is sad or depressing couldn’t be further from reality. “It’s the most invigorating and life-affirming thing I know how to do,” she explained. “I feel most alive when I am talking to people about their death.”

A law school graduate, Arthur’s interest in working as a doula began as she assisted her sister for two months while her brother-in-law was dying from terminal Burkitt’s lymphoma. Though she still chokes up recalling the memories of his sickness and death, she remembers that time as a precious, privileged, and happy experience. “It gave me insight into how we really can do better—and we really should do better.”

Honoring the wishes and hopes of the vulnerable and dying seems like it should be standard practice. However, this isn’t always the case. Studies show that the overwhelming majority of Americans would prefer to die at home, but 60 percent die in acute care hospitals and 20 percent die in nursing homes. And for many of us, death isn’t something we really think about until we’re faced with it. In fact, research shows that 4 out of 10 Americans age 65 and over have no advanced directives or written requests for their end-of-life medical treatment.

Arthur seeks to destigmatize discourse about death and dying, encouraging people to have the hard conversations and face their fears, empowering and giving her clients control over their experience. “Talking about sex won’t make you pregnant,” she states. “Talking about death won’t make you dead.”

Arthur assists her clients through guided meditations on dying and bodily decomposition and discusses everything from financial considerations to personal grooming preferences to final disposition, normalizing and lifting the veil on what so many of us would prefer to avoid talking about: our own fragile and temporary bodies, our mortality, and the ways in which we desire to leave it behind.

“It’s so human,” Arthur states. “It’s the most human thing we do, other than being born, or maybe giving birth. We’re born. We die. Let’s do both in ways that honor us, and honor humankind, and honor each other.”

Learn more about UVM’s online End of Life Doula Professional Certificate

-Kate Whitney is a freelance writer. 

Demand Grows for End-of-Life Doula Training at UVM

By Kymelya Sari
Seven Days

Roberta MacDonald guffawed when she remembered a riddle her friend once asked her: What’s the No. 1 cause of death? No, it’s not heart disease or cancer, as one might typically guess. “It’s birth,” said MacDonald. “That was Paula’s line — I love that.”

Paula Fives-Taylor, professor emeritus of microbiology at the University of Vermont, died in January 2015. In the last few months of her life, MacDonald moved into the octogenarian’s house to be her primary caregiver while still working full time at Cabot Creamery Cooperative.

The two women had met years earlier at a hospice volunteer training course led by Fives-Taylor. Through her own experience as her former teacher’s caregiver, MacDonald discovered gaps in end-of-life services. She decided she wanted to educate others on how to support individuals in their final months or days — as an end-of-life doula.

“Doula” comes from the Greek word doul, which means “female servant or slave.” In modern usage, the word refers to a nonfamily member who provides nonmedical emotional, spiritual and physical support during major life transitions, particularly birth or death.

In 2016, MacDonald approached UVM Continuing and Distance Education proposing an end-of-life doula program.

Read the full story in Seven Days.

UVM Student Gets Another Chance at Medical School

UVM’s Medical Science Degree Program gave Kristina Valentine a second chance at getting into medical school.

The McGill University graduate wasn’t accepted to medical school when she first applied two years ago. But this fall, she is heading to the UVM Larner College of Medicine with the goal of working in the primary care field.

We talked to Kristina about her plans for the future and how the Master of Medical Science Degree Program helped make her a desirable candidate for medical school.

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After not getting into medical school the first time around, what made you decide to enroll in the Master of Medical Science program

Not getting into medical school last time was definitely tough, so I was able to think about my options and reaffirm that medicine was definitely what I wanted to do. I received feedback on my application and did some soul searching. One of my biggest problems was that I applied very late in the cycle and I did not understand how much that can affect your application. Some of my undergraduate grades may have given some admissions committees pause, too.

Beyond that, I also knew that it would definitely help my medical school application to have more experience in upper-level science courses to show that I could do the work. I also knew that I was much more equipped to excel in difficult science courses at this point in my life. After researching, the UVM Medical Science Degree Program seemed like the perfect fit for me.

What will you be focusing on in medical school?

As of now, my goal is to work in a primary care field—internal medicine or family medicine—and I see myself working in a community health center or other entity where most patients have difficulty accessing health services. I would also like to spend time working in a jail or prison.

You’re interested in serving the justice-involved population. Can you talk about why you are passionate about this particular area?

I became passionate about this particular area through my boss, Dr. Tom Simpatico, who works with justice-involved populations at MHISSION Translational Systems. I have met individuals who were either coming out of incarceration or going into jail diversion, and I heard so much about their often traumatic and heartbreaking pasts. Many of them just weren’t given the tools to succeed and had the cards stacked against them. Though many have done bad things, Dr. Simpatico treats them as people who deserve care. That really sparked a fire in me. I have seen that a lot of times that if individuals are provided with a supportive environment—including support from their physician—they can do much better overall.

Was the UVM Larner College of Medicine Your First Choice?

Yes. I ended up getting five interviews in all, and went to two other interviews besides UVM. I got accepted to one other school and withdrew from the other before getting my decision because I knew I wanted to go to UVM and was accepted early on.

How did the MMS program prepare you for getting into medical school?

It helped in so many ways. For one, I was able to talk to advisors and really get an idea on when I should have my application in and what I should focus on. The biggest thing, however, was probably that I excelled in my classes. I worked really hard, but also had great support from all of my teachers and fellow students. Whenever I didn’t understand something, I would go to office hours and talk it out with my instructor and talk to my other classmates. I now feel like I demonstrated that I can handle the science coursework that is required in medical school and feel much more comfortable because of all of the things I’ve learned.

What were some of the challenges you experienced?

Gross anatomy was really difficult for me at first because I had trouble understanding what I was looking at in the body. But now I won’t have to deal with that learning curve in med school as I’ll be able to pick up where I left off more or less. The same goes for physiology and biochemistry. I have the basics down and will be able to comfortably build on that in medical school.

What was one of the most helpful things you learned from the Master of Medical Science program?

The program gave me a lot of time to think about how to articulate why I want to work in medicine and what got me to this point. Being able to talk to advisors and other students and to think about my journey helped me write my med school application’s secondary essays and personal statements in a way that clearly showed my path and the type of physician I want to become.

Learn more about the UVM Master of Medical Science Degree Program

UVM Is: Connie Tompkins Raising Awareness About Food Addiction in Teens

Little is known about food addiction in adolescents, so UVM Associate Professor Connie Tompkins and her colleagues set out to learn more.

An expert in the prevention and treatment of childhood and adolescent obesity, Tompkins co-authored a study, Food Addiction: A Barrier for Effective Weight Management for Obese Adolescents, that was published in the December issue of Childhood Obesity. The purpose of the study was to explore the prevalence of food addiction and food addiction symptoms in obese adolescents entering an outpatient, weight management program.

Despite a willingness and desire to lose excess weight, adolescents with food addiction may be unable to decrease their drive to eat, resulting in the possibility of interventions directed solely at healthy eating and physical activity to be less effective.

“These eating behaviors are really having a negative impact on several aspects of these children’s lives. Symptoms including the ‘inability to cut down’ and ‘continued use despite problems’ indicate that they are struggling and need help,” Tompkins says. “I hope that obesity and, in particular, obesity in childhood and adolescence, will not simply be attributed to a lack of willpower. I hope that people can view obesity not as a consequence of the individual but one of the modern day, food environment.”

Tompkins and her fellow UVM researchers—Associate Professor Jennifer Laurent  and Associate Professor David Brock—found that one-third of adolescents entering the weight management program in the study met the criteria for food addiction and 50 percent reported three or more food addiction symptoms. In addition, the percentage of adolescents dropping out of the weight management program was higher in those with food addiction compared to those without.

As far as Tompkins knows, the UVM study is the first investigation of the prevalence of food addiction in adolescents seeking outpatient, behavioral treatment for obesity.

Tompkins has been involved with pediatric weight management programs for most of her career, and it was Laurent that approached her about incorporating an assessment of food addiction with adolescents and their parents. Brock has been one of Tompkins’ close collaborators since she first arrived at UVM, and Tompkins says she relies on his guidance and expertise in obesity and the trajectory of obesity from childhood to adulthood.

What is Food Addiction?

The term ‘‘food addiction’’ has been used to describe a cluster of eating behaviors similar to behaviors associated with drug-related addictive disorders.  Although food addiction is not currently recognized as a clinical diagnosis, the central behaviors associated with substance addiction, such as craving and withdrawal, are also key factors in disordered or problematic eating and overeating.

Food addiction is somewhat of a controversial topic and it is still inconclusive as to whether it is indeed a distinctly different pathological eating disorder, Tompkins says.

“We don’t exactly know when these eating behaviors may begin but I would propose that it is during childhood before puberty,” she says. “In fact, we saw an increase in the number of symptoms with age. In that case, as the number of symptoms increase, the harder it may be to help these children with weight loss and/or they may require more intense treatment.”

Food addiction may be difficult to treat in adolescents, and it also differs from how adults are treated.

Tompkins explains that as an adult, you may have some control on your food environment. That’s not the case for children and adolescents.

“They are subjected to food environments that are for the most part out of their control, including at school and at home. This places a large responsibility or even burden on these adolescents to develop strategies to manage their eating behaviors in these challenging situations,” Tompkins says.

Tompkins says further research is necessary to identify potential effective interventions or treatment strategies for adolescents with a higher number of food addiction symptoms and/or those meeting the criteria for food addiction diagnosis.

If food addiction follows the same trajectory as substance addiction, then these eating behaviors may likely persist into adulthood, become increasingly difficult to treat using current treatment programs, and result in greater morbidity and earlier mortality.

What does Tompkins hope the research will accomplish?

“Obesity is a complex condition and is not simply due to a lack of willpower or a child being weak and unable to resist unhealthy foods. I hope this brings some attention to—and awareness of—food addiction and the symptoms associated with food addiction,” she says. “These addictive-like eating behaviors are real and negatively impacting these children’s lives.”

-The “UVM Is” series celebrates University faculty, educators, and the campus community.

To learn more, visit UVM Continuing and Distance Education at learn.uvm.edu.

Why Shawn Logan Wants to Be an End-of-Life Doula

A family story sparked Shawn Logan’s interest in end-of-life care. The story was so moving that Shawn, who is pursuing a career as a mental health clinician, decided he had to learn more.

We talked to the Kentucky resident, who enrolled in the UVM End-of-Life Doula Professional Certificate Program last year, about death, dying, and why he wants to help others with end-of-life care.

 Tell us the story about your family.

A couple of years ago, I had a conversation with my grandmother. She was planning her final wishes and the conversation turned to her brother, Alton, who died at age 3 from diphtheria. She went on to explain that while Alton was actively dying, the entire family gathered to hold vigil for Alton; they provided care to him but also support to each other. Her father and brothers built a small coffin and when Alton died, they cleaned him and put on his church clothes. They went to the family cemetery and dug out the grave and they even carved out a gravestone. This conversation was profoundly moving to me and it made me think about how our views on death and dying have radically changed in a relatively short period. My grandmother and all of her siblings were delivered by a midwife, and this was an incredible connection with end-of-life care.

uvm doula program

What was one of the most important lessons you learned in the UVM doula program?

That death and dying is such a deeply personal experience. In the program, we were provided a solid set of skills to utilize but we also learned that each client is going to be uniquely different. They will be faced with their own struggles, denials, and hopefully, acceptance. As a doula, our goal is to ensure that each dying client has the best possible death for him or her; not what we want and not necessarily what their family wants. Equally important is that our clients’ families and loved ones also go through their own stages of grief. While a doula’s top priority will always be their dying client, we also have to provide support to family and loved ones.

What is the biggest misconception about end-of-life care?

Fear. In the last century or so, we, as a society, have grown to fear death. We avoid talking about it because we fear it. When a death occurs, we are often left with the burden of trying to guess what a family member or loved one would want when they die. It goes beyond planning for a funeral, though that is also very important. We often fail to be cognizant of events that can happen immediately preceding death from an accident, stroke, or cancer. Do we want life sustaining measures to be taken? Do we want life support to be maintained? Would we prefer home care instead of placement in a long-term care facility? These are all conversations we need to have sooner rather than later.

How do you think the doula program will help you help your clients?

One of the lessons we learned is that doulas should be fully present with their clients, without judgement, without bias, and without any agenda. When we open ourselves to clients, amazing things can happen. It can be a long silence or maybe they want to talk about growing up. Whatever they want, we learn to be there for them and hopefully make the transition from one life to another less stressful or frightening.

What are your career plans?

To continue practice as a mental health clinician but also provide end-of-life doula services on a volunteer basis. I live in a very rural area and being able to provide doula services for the community I’ve grown up in is quite important. No matter where I end up, my long-term goal is to provide my services on a volunteer basis.

Mental health clinicians encounter clients at all stages of the grief process and this program has afforded me a unique set of skills that I can utilize in clinical practice. While my long-term goal is to practice independently as an end-of-life doula on a volunteer basis, it should be noted that both professions are uniquely different and independent. While I can potentially utilize skills from both, each has their own ethical and governing laws.

Learn more about the UVM End-of-Life Doula Professional Certificate Program.

 

UVM Public Health Student Competes in 2018 Winter Games

Like most graduate students, Ida Sargent finds pursuing a master’s degree to be a juggling act. But Ida is not your typical student. She’s a member of the U.S. Ski Team who is competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

A student in the UVM Master of Public Health online program, Ida is a lifelong Vermonter, 2014 Olympian, and World Championship skier.

We talked to Ida about her Nordic racing career and why she wants to work in public health.

How did you become interested in this particular career path?

As an elite athlete, I am very grateful for my health. Sports has given me the opportunity to be fit and strong, and I believe that good health is one of the most basic rights in life. It scares me to see the rising levels of childhood obesity, and the physical and mental burdens that it places on young children. I’m involved with several non-profit organizations that use sports and physical activity to build confidence, self-esteem, community values, and healthy habits. This is mostly volunteer work, but it has given me the opportunity to share the values and building blocks of a healthy lifestyle, which I believe is key to our future.

As an Olympic athlete, how to manage to find time to go to school?

Online courses are my only option. I spend at least half the year on the road with training camps during the summer and fall. From November through March, I am traveling around the globe with the U.S. Ski Team and racing World Cups almost every weekend. I often will be in four or more countries in a single month, so being in an actual classroom would be impossible for me. While I have a busy schedule, it’s great to have some balance on the road and to take my brain off of skiing.

Why did you choose UVM?

I’m a Vermonter through and through, and it’s a place that I care about deeply. UVM offers such a strong Master of Public Health program. It’s great to connect with many professors, public health professionals, and students who also have strong ties to Vermont and our communities. These connections can help us all make a difference improving the health of our population.

More information about UVM’s Ida Sargent (courtesy of TeamUSA.org)

Birthplace: Newport, Vt.

Hometown: Craftsbury, Vt.

High School: Burke Mountain Academy (Burke, Vt.) ’06

College: Dartmouth College ’11, Biology and Psychology

Team/Club: Craftsbury Green Racing Project

Olympic Experience

  • Two-time Olympian (2014, 2018)
  • Sochi 2014, 19th (sprint freestyle), 32nd (10K classic)

World Championship Experience

  • Most recent: 2017 – 24th (sprint freestyle), 43rd (10K classic)
  • Years of participation: 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017
  • Top finish: 24th – 2017 (sprint freestyle)

Personal: Daughter of David and Lindy Sargent…Has one brother, Eben, and one sister, Elsa…Started skiing as soon as she could walk…Aspires to be a physical therapist…Hobbies include running, practicing yoga, mountain biking, hiking, canoeing, reading and gardening.

Learn more about UVM’s Master of Public Health Program

 

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