Lizzie White traces her interest in public health back to the book, “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” Tracey Kidder’s biography of Dr. Paul Farmer that was assigned reading in a high school class on social justice. Farmer’s story inspired her to begin volunteering, and, in addition to her biology major, to study global health and health disparities as an undergraduate.
In her first foray into the workforce Lizzie worked with AmeriCorps as a health educator in Jacksonville, Florida before moving to Boston to work as a research assistant at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Immersed in data and collaborating with the data team and clinical informatics specialists, Lizzie fell in love with the research side of public health.
Now a fourth-year doctoral candidate in the Yale School of Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases, Lizzie is spending the summer in Uganda where she is doing foundational research in collaboration with the Ministry of Health to understand steps to providing care to tuberculosis patients. With 201 cases per 100,000 people each year, this work sets the stage for development of quality improvement interventions aimed at improving outcomes in the country. More than 40 percent of Uganda’s TB patients are co-infected with HIV which makes timely treatment and diagnosis more difficult and contributes to spread of the disease.
“TB is interesting because it is such an old disease and so much is known about it. Even so, there is so much we don’t know,” says Lizzie. “What we don’t know affects the most vulnerable populations, especially in lower- and middle-income countries with chronic conditions such as HIV. It is still the number 1 cause of infectious disease deaths worldwide.”