August 13, 2020 | Erin Bluvas, email@example.com
Audrey Gleaton already knew she wanted to study medicine when she was a microbiology major at Louisiana State University Agriculture and Mechanical College less than an hour from her hometown of Lafayette. She refined her focus to global health after participating in a medical mission trip to Belize.
“I witnessed poverty and a lack of medical care as I had never imagined,” Gleaton says. “From then on, I knew that I wished to address these issues, but I was unsure where to begin.”
Gleaton graduated from medical school (Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center - New Orleans, School of Medicine) and then completed a three-year residency in family medicine (Baton Rouge General in affiliation with Tulane University), where she was elected chief resident and received the Green Emerald Award for cultural sensitivity and work with underserved populations. During the six-week gap between medical school and her residency program, Gleaton traveled to northern India to provide medial screenings to Tibetan refugee monks and nuns. She observed that the most common medical problems were preventable conditions (e.g., dehydration headaches, diabetes, hypertension).
“This made me begin to think about how important health education and public health initiatives were for population health,” Gleaton says. “It also emphasized the difference between individual clinical medicine and large population health affecting many.”
After completing her residency in 2018, Gleaton began looking for additional training to help her achieve her goals of improving the health and wellbeing of individuals and populations. She chose UofSC’s Family Medicine-Global Health Fellowship Program, which includes a Master of Public Health (MPH) in Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior (HPEB), due to its balance of academic and clinical/field experience as well as its international connections and highly recommended staff.
The program provided additional opportunities for Gleaton to gain experience in international contexts. She spent six months Cyprus working with Hope for Children to develop and implement a health education program for unaccompanied male minors seeking asylum status while residing in the organization’s shelter. She also worked with the University of Nicosia Mobile Medical Clinic to perform free health and cervical cancer screenings in rural Cyprus.
In the classroom and through navigating logistics for her work abroad, Gleaton connected with HPEB faculty, such as Megan Weis, Ken Watkins, Ed Frongillo, and particularly Lee Pearson, who taught two of the program’s core classes. “Dr. Pearson is an inspiration as a teacher and leader in the field of HPEB,” Gleaton says. “His passion and fervor are contagious and helped me push through some of the ‘swampier’ aspects of practical field application of HPEB theories.”
After completing her program this summer, Gleaton will pursue a position as a family medicine physician with a large medical group that allows for extensive time devoted to international medical mission trips focusing on the prevention of chronic diseases in low- and middle-income countries. Eventually, she would like to lead an interactional aid organization, assisting with public health program development for a specific population as well as providing oversight of quality direct patient care in a sustainable and locally sourced clinic.
“The Arnold School of Public Health’s health promotion, education, and behavior program is a wonderful program that combines education of theories with hands-on experience,” Gleaton says. “My advice to a prospective student to this program or any area of public health is to keep an open mind, treat life as an adventure worth living, and learn something from every experience.”