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Arnold School of Public Health

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Alumna Paige Pierce pursues master’s in health science research in the Netherlands

October 5, 2018 | Erin Bluvas,

Chapin, South Carolina, native Paige Pierce originally thought she’d like to attend college out of state, have an experience outside her comfort zone. After touring the UofSC campus; however, she realized how much she would enjoy campus life while receiving a great education. Plus, the Study Abroad Office offered ample opportunities to explore the world beyond her home state.

The Palmetto Fellows scholar spent the spring semester of her sophomore year studying in Salamanca, Spain and knew she wanted to live abroad again—this time for a longer period of time—either as a graduate student or a professional. Meanwhile, she continued working toward her bachelor of science in public health degree at the Arnold School, earning a spot on the President’s and/or Dean’s Lists every semester, and gained practical experience in her field.

Pierce worked as a medical scribe at Family Medicine Centers of South Carolina and as a nutrition coordinator for the Autism Academy of South Carolina’s Camp MATES. On campus, she assisted with research on the National Institutes of Health-funded Project F.I.T. and served as a Global Ambassador for International Studies Abroad.

Within her academic program, Pierce connected with health promotion, education, and behavior (HPEB) instructor April Winngham. “Dr. Winningham is easily the most influential professor I have ever had at USC,” she says. “Her positivity and dedication to her subject are infectious. I still carry even the smallest pieces of advice she would slip into lectures.”

Pierce also found mentors in associate dean for undergraduate affairs and clinical associate professor Sara Corwin and HPEB professor Robert Valois. “Dr. Corwin was an infinite source of valuable information on jobs, internships, volunteer work, research, etc., and she went above and beyond to help me succeed as an Arnold School student,” Pierce says. “I met with Dr. Valois on numerous occasions for guidance and general mentorship regarding my academic and career goals. I valued his opinion and am grateful for his time and patience as he worked with me to streamline my plans for the future.”

Arnold School professors’ selflessness and passion for public health are affirming to anyone interested in the field.

-Paige Pierce, 2017 alumna, B.S. in public health

After her May 2017 graduation, Pierce worked in the human resources department at McLeod Health for a year while further refining those future plans. After researching graduate programs and discussing options with her Dutch best friend, she decided to pursue a master’s in health science research at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. She was particularly interested in learning about the Dutch culture and its healthcare system. [Follow her journey on her blog.]

“I am learning how to conduct research across the health science landscape,” explains Pierce, who is taking many courses alongside epidemiology master’s students. “My program is broad in its scope of scientific training for researchers, and in my second year I will take elective courses to develop my research profile before completing an internship in a subject of my choosing during the last six months.”

Her career goals include earning a Ph.D. in order to work in academia—perhaps in nutrition and metabolism. Long term, she’d like to run a health center in an underserved neighborhood that focuses on preventive health measures, such as physical activity, diet and nutrition, psychological wellness, and connection to the community.

Though Pierce continues to refine her interests and ambitions, she is unequivocal in her praise for her alma mater and the experience of living abroad. “Arnold School professors’ selflessness and passion for public health are affirming to anyone interested in the field,” says Pierce, who encourages students to pursue international living. “All of my encounters were positive and have played a role in where I am today and what I want for my future. I continue to keep up with many of my professors because I still value their mentorship.”

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