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Jessica Gergen // global public health catalyst // class of 2010

Everyone knows that travel can change one’s perspective, but for Jessica Gergen (B.S. Biology), that has proved to be especially true. “As soon as I got my undergraduate degree, I traveled to Freetown, Sierra Leone, and helped to build public-health programs for a small, grassroots non-government organization to improve community engagement surrounding endemic infectious diseases,” she says.

The work led her to scuttle plans to attend medical school in favor of a career in public health. Currently near completion of a master’s degree program in the international health department at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, she recently worked as a Global Health Fellow intern for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). She has also continued to travel, including the completion of a practicum project in Bangladesh. “I worked for the Center for Communication Programs, helping monitor and evaluate an electronic health (eHealth) pilot for rural community health workers,” she says.

“My long-term goal is to change the funding platform of public health, so the relationship between donors, private businesses and non-profit organizations is one of collaboration instead of competitive duplication,” she says.

Gergen’s travels have certainly brought her a deeper world view. “One of the major benefits of traveling to resource-poor settings is that I’m more encouraged to have a perspective of gratitude,” she says. “I try to keep things in perspective. When I’m worried about an upcoming test or when I’m running late for a meeting, I try to keep that in mind.”