May 6, 2020 | Erin Bluvas, firstname.lastname@example.org
A series of sports-related concussions, including one that abruptly ended his high school soccer career, sapped Samuel Godfrey’s confidence about his ability to work in the fields of math and science. He was a freshman at the University of Maine at Farmington in his home state and uncertain about his career options when he decided to seek advice from the professor of his nutrition and exercise course, Maurice Martin.
After that meeting, Godfrey majored in community health where he excelled, regaining the confidence he had lost after experiencing the various neurocognitive effects that accompanied his concussions. Following his junior year, Martin invited Godfrey to discuss graduate school – something that Godfrey hadn’t realized he was capable of pursuing. His interest in integrating data and statistics led Godfrey to look into epidemiology and biostatistics programs.
“When choosing a graduate school, I was looking to strike a balance between affordability and a high-quality education, and UofSC seemed to balance the two very nicely,” he says. “When I came down to UofSC for prospective students’ day, Dr. Linda Hazlett took some extra time to speak with me one-on-one in her office. What stuck out to me was that she wasn’t just interested in what my accomplishments were up to that point and what I wanted to do in graduate school; she was interested in how I was doing personally with the stress of choosing a school and potentially moving out of Maine for the first time. Collectively, all of these factors and experiences led me to choose UofSC.”
During his Master of Science in Public Health in Epidemiology program, Godfrey explored the many areas of public health including mental health, substance abuse/misuse, and environmental health. He became particularly interested in GIS mapping applications and used this powerful tool in his thesis research on the opioid crisis in Northern New England.
As a research assistant with the Disability Research and Dissemination Center, Godfrey worked with epidemiology professor Suzanne McDermott to manage and analyze Medicaid data sets, applying course concepts to develop skills that would help him land a job with the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after graduation. He continued to receive advice and guidance from Hazlett, particularly related to career planning and applying for jobs, and also found a mentor in clinical assistant professor Andrew Ortaglia.
“Dr. Ortaglia pushed me to commit myself to becoming skilled with biostatistics,” Godfrey says. “The attention to detail he requires for his courses as well as the numerous hours of extra instruction he provided during his office hours helped me be successful in this program and will allow me to be a very effective contributor to public health work at my new job.”
That new job entails serving as an epidemiologist in the Maine CDC’s Division of Environmental and Community Health. Long term, he’d like to pursue a doctoral degree and teach at a university.
“My undergraduate advisor often talked about the importance of training the next cohort of professionals to come after you so that you can share the knowledge and experience you accumulate over your career,” Godfrey says. “I think once I have more knowledge and experience that is worth sharing, I will seriously consider earning my Ph.D.”
Follow the journeys of some of our other May graduates.