December 19, 2019 | Erin Bluvas, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kyle Hatcher has crisscrossed the country over the past few years gaining experience in public health. The West Virginia native earned two bachelor’s degrees (biology and philosophy) from his state’s flagship university and then moved to Alaska where he set up samples to run gas and liquid chromatography tests as a lab technician.
Hatcher then returned to West Virginia to apply his skills at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, looking at gas chromatography from the analysis side by examining the makeup of compounds used to flavor coffee grounds in industrial settings. He also gained policy experience as a legislative analyst for the West Virginia State Senate before deciding to pursue a graduate degree.
“Being from not only one of the poorest states in the nation, but also one of the unhealthiest, I saw the devastating effects of poverty, disease and, more recently, opioid addiction, and I wanted to work in a field that studies those problems and finds ways to remedy them,” Hatcher says. “Epidemiology uses data to estimate the risk of disease and these findings help drive good policy. I have always had a natural inclination for data analysis, and I enjoy doing research with health importance, so this field was aptly suited for me.”
He joined the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics’ Master of Science in Public Health in Epidemiology program in 2017 and immediately found mentors. He especially connected with clinical associate professors James Hussey (epidemiology and biostatistics) and Bankole Olatosi (health services policy and management), who introduced Hatcher to statistics and fostered an appreciation for the challenging subject. Graduate program director Linda Hazlett, thesis advisor Melissa Nolan and supervisor Suzanne McDermott also proved to be invaluable mentors.
“They were instrumental in different ways in fostering my epidemiology knowledge but also gave me the opportunities to apply it, which is an experience worth its weight in gold,” Hatcher says of Hazlett and McDermott.
Those application opportunities included a graduate assistantship on McDermott’s CDC-funded South Carolina Disability and Health Project and experience working on a diabetes prevention project with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Chronic Disease Bureau. “I believe that UofSC, and the epidemiology and biostatistics department specifically, have a good nose for finding students who will excel in their programs, and they prepare them to do so using a lot of great resources,” Hatcher says.
After completing all requirements for his master’s program except his thesis, Hatcher made another cross-country trek – this time to Wisconsin – to serve as an epidemiologist for the Great Lakes Inter Tribal Council. In this role, he worked with 34 Tribal Nations, four Urban Indian Programs and three Indian Health Services regions on projects ranging from opioid addition and abuse prevention to tobacco cessation programming to capacity-building trainings related to epidemiological assessments.
This month, Hatcher was awarded his degree and inducted into the Mu Chapter, Delta Omega Honor Society. He also made the move back to South Carolina to accept a role as a data manager at the Medical University of South Carolina. In this position, he is working on clinical trials, examining factors which may cause or help prevent stroke. After gaining more experience as a public health professional, he might return to school to earn a doctoral or medical degree.
If Hatcher had to boil his experiences down to one piece of advice it would be: teamwork. “In graduate school, you are going to have to rely on your cohort for help,” he says. “Get close with them and homework won’t be a chore, you’re understanding of the subject will grow exponentially, and you’ll never be at a lack for a social life.”