Public health classes ‘opened my eyes’

“Public health has given me the opportunity to be incredibly proactive and make a difference in the lives of countless people,” said Megan Piller, who will receive a degree in public health from the School of Nursing and Health Studies.

From the time Megan Piller was little, she told her parents she would one day become a neurosurgeon.

“I’ve always enjoyed health, medicine and science,” she said. “I definitely claim to be a woman in STEM. Love it.”

Piller arrived at the University of Miami in the fall of 2019 to pursue his life plan. “I came in as a dual degree student in the department of microbiology and immunology as well as public health,” she said.

But her focus quickly shifted from advance care to public health. “The public health classes were a turning point for me,” she recalls. “It opened my eyes to what I want to do. The environment was so open and collaborative and a really positive space.”

Peeler will soon be moving to Connecticut for Yale University’s Master of Public Health in Social and Behavioral Sciences program, with a global health concentration.

“Public health has given me the opportunity to be incredibly proactive and change the lives of countless people, to be on the front lines and get ahead of any kind of serious disease or environmental problem,” she said.

At the University of Miami, Piller served as Editor-in-Chief of the student-run journal Scientifica, and her interest in sustainability and sustainability includes serving as Vice Chair of the student-run ECO Agency.

“Megan was an outstanding student both in and out of the classroom,” said Arsham Alamian, associate dean for health studies in the School of Nursing and Health Studies. “She has an extensive list of extracurricular activities and is a high-level contributor to the undergraduate public health program at SONHS.”

Piller, in turn, credits members of the Nursing and Health Studies faculty for guiding her successes. “Dr. Alamian, Dr. Ashley Falcon, and Dr. Andrew Porter have served as mentors to me in various areas. The research I was able to do over several years with Dr. Porter and Dr. Alamian only strengthened my desire to continue in the field of public health.”

With Alamian, Piller produced abstracts for publication and presentation, one of which, on caffeine intake and the risk of metabolic syndrome in children, led to her first author credit with Alamian in the journal Annals of Epidemiology.

An internship at Porter’s research lab, The Sex Wrap, inspired Piller’s final public health practicum project, “The ‘Memification’ of Sexual Health Communication on Instagram,” which examines the intersection between social media use and public information campaigns health, specifically sexual health and reproductive health education.

“The heart of this initiative was to meet people, especially young adults aged 14 to 29, where they are and much of the time is on social media these days. For better or for worse, this is where people get their information,” she said. “In public health, you have to be comfortable being uncomfortable, and that’s when you make your biggest discoveries or you can learn the most.”

Piller recently submitted a manuscript with Porter, her practice advisor, and Falcon for publication in the peer-reviewed journal Sex Education.

“It’s not something many students have to do during their undergraduate career,” Piller said.

Her ultimate goals include a Ph.D. and an international career focused on women’s sexual and reproductive health.

“Our public health classes have always taught us that the well-being and success of women reflects the economic, political and social well-being of the country as a whole,” Piller said. “As a woman with a sister and family members who have been affected by sexual and reproductive health laws in the US, it is important that I pass the baton and open up opportunities for women around the world to be as successful as I was and give them the freedom to regarding their reproductive and sexual health to be amazing, brave and innovative. Hopefully my work in public health can help with that – at least a little.

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