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Tori Cowger // public health epidemiologist // class of 2012

The route from Minneapolis to Atlanta by way of Nairobi may seem like a circuitous one, but it’s been a path that helped lead Tori Cowger (B.S. Biochemistry) closer to realizing her life’s ambition.

“During my junior year as an undergraduate, I participated in the Minnesota Studies in International Development program in Kenya,” Cowger says. Her time in Kenya, conducting research on voluntary counseling and testing for HIV, helped her recognize her passion for epidemiology. “I learned that while infectious diseases seem to be predominantly biological phenomena, they’re almost entirely socially determined and driven by larger underlying inequalities,” she says. “Socioeconomic context largely predicts risk not only for infection, but also for poorer health outcomes.”

Currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Public Health in Epidemiology at Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta, she is also working part-time at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention focusing on global health research for programs that aim to reduce the burden of infectious diseases in vulnerable populations.

“I’ve resolved to apply my background in biochemistry to infectious diseases through global health, keeping in mind the larger underlying social inequalities that exacerbate global health disparities,” she says. After completion of her degree from Emory, she hopes to continue working at the CDC and pursue a Ph.D. in epidemiology. “I hope to eventually apply what I’ve learned to conduct research that contributes to the evidence base and helps inform programs to reduce disparities in global health, especially infectious disease burdens.”