Jennifer Spicer
Emory University School of Medicine
Age: 26

 "The Kean Fellowship allowed me to work abroad for the first time. It gave me the financial resources to fulfill my dream of traveling back to Latin America—and now I have fallen in love with international work."

 

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I grew up in Macon, Georgia, and from an early age I was exposed to medicine since both of my parents are physicians. But, as a child, I was convinced that I would never enter the medical field because of my tendency to faint every time that I received a shot at the pediatrician. After I graduated from Mount de Sales Academy in Macon, I I pursued a double major in microbiology and marine sciences at the University of Georgia. I continued to follow my passion for teaching by becoming a teaching assistant. Although I enjoyed teaching, my microbiology courses became my favorite classes. I loved learning about the history of infectious diseases, their manifestations and their treatments.

I entered the MD/MPH program at Emory University in the fall of 2007, and I have never regretted my decision. I just completed my MPH coursework in epidemiology and spent two months in Bolivia working on a project with the CDC examining the prevalence of and morbidity associated with Chagas disease and soil-transmitted helminthes in the Chaco region. Currently, I am applying for an internal medicine residency with plans to complete an infectious disease fellowship. Because of my love of teaching, I am strongly considering a career in academic medicine, and I plan to continue to work in the field of global health and tropical medicine.

What impact will the 2011 Kean Fellowship have on your future?
The Kean Fellowship allowed me to experience a new side of international travel. All of my previous trips around the world had been either for vacation or study abroad. After learning about tropical diseases in my microbiology courses and traveling to Belize as an undergrad, I thought that international work would form some part of my future career. All of my mentors said that traveling abroad was very different from working abroad. The Kean Fellowship allowed me to work abroad for the first time. 

My experience in Bolivia allowed me to experience the good and the bad of working internationally. We were setting up a brand new field site in the Chaco region of Bolivia and I experienced the frustrating aspects of coordinating fieldwork and finding new, reliable personnel. We had to overcome distrust in the Guarani communities where other projects had failed to follow through on their promises. Even though we had many long, challenging days, I found that I loved every minute of it. The Kean Fellowship gave me the financial resources to fulfill my dream of traveling back to Latin America—and now I have fallen in love with international work.

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What advice would you give to those just entering school or trying to determine their specialty or field of interest?
Pick the specialty that you love regardless of lifestyle or income. If you love what you do every day, you will never regret your career choice.