Rachel Danis

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UVM Master of Public Health Alumna Sets Her Sights on Improving Water Quality

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Rachel Danis’ interest in water quality started in college and exponentially flourished after graduation.

While volunteering for a wetland conservation organization in Valencia, Spain, Danis realized how much she enjoyed collecting water samples and analyzing water quality data. When she returned home to Plattsburgh, New York, she eventually enrolled in the online UVM Master of Public Health Program to focus on environmental public health.

“Making sure people have access to safe drinking water is something I deeply care about,” she says. “I think water quality is a growing issue, and people aren’t fully aware of what our future will look like in terms of our water supply in the next 100 years.”

UVM Environmental Public Health

In May, Danis completed UVM’s 42-credit online public health graduate program offered in collaboration with the UVM Larner College of Medicine. The top-ranked program leads to a generalist MPH degree focused on excellence in environmental public health, epidemiology, quantitative public health sciences, and health policy, leadership, and advocacy.

“Public health is about our future. There’s always going to be another problem or disease or huge issue that can affect us,” she says. “Public health is a field that is on the rise, and that’s also definitely one of the reasons why I chose to pursue it.”

When Danis started her college career at UVM as an undergraduate, she focused on athletic training and sports therapy. She eventually switched gears and transferred to SUNY Plattsburgh, where she decided to major in environmental studies. A couple of global health courses taken during her undergraduate years at UVM and SUNY Plattsburgh piqued her interest in public health and water quality.

Growing up in Plattsburgh on the shores of Lake Champlain, Danis is familiar with local water quality issues such as algae blooms and E. coli. But water quality issues extend far beyond Vermont and New York. While treatment and distribution of safe drinking water has all but eliminated diseases such as cholera, typhoid fever, dysentery and hepatitis A in the United States, an estimated 19.5 million Americans fall ill each year from contaminated drinking water. Water resources across the country also lack basic protections, making them vulnerable to pollution from fracking, farm runoff, industrial discharges, and neglected water infrastructure.

Danis hopes she can help create positive change in the field of water quality.

“There so many pieces to public health and many different ways to help,” says Danis. “I know I want a job that I can feel good about and a job where I know I’m making a difference.”

Learn more about the UVM Online Master of Public Health Program