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Arnold School of Public Health

Realize your potential; maximize your impact, public health graduate says

December 15, 2021 | Erin Bluvas,

Katelyn Stephens loved UofSC the first time she visited during high school, and she kept coming back. The Peachtree City, Georgia native toured the Carolina campus a total of five times – falling more in love with the university each time she visited.

“I immediately felt at home and loved the campus atmosphere and how friendly everyone was,” Stephens says. “I was also really drawn to the Capstone Scholars program as they focused on service to the community and leadership as well as academics.”

With a lot of nurses and physicians in her extended family, Stephens already knew she was interested in a health-related career. She decided to study public health because it offered insight into the preventive side of healthcare.

If we focus on helping the community as a whole, it takes a lot of strain off our infrastructure and helps keep each individual healthy.

-Katelyn Stephens, B.S. in Public Health, 2021

Stephens’ first semester as a public health major turned out to be full of hands-on experiences. During her 2020 spring break, she traveled to Guatemala as part of a service-learning study abroad medical mission trip. Stephens and her fellow Capstone Scholars ran rural healthcare clinics to provide treatment and prevention services for local residents.

“My trip to Guatemala really showed me the importance of public health and educating populations on how to stay healthy,” she says.

When they returned to campus, COVID-19 was spreading rapidly in the United States. Infection rates were climbing, schools and business were closing, and public health professionals were banding together to fight the pandemic.

As a resident mentor, Stephens’ role supporting more than 500 students took on new dimensions as the university began implementing COVID-19 protocols. Later on, she would serve as a research assistant in UofSC’s COVID-19 testing lab, running samples and improving campus safety and tracking.

Her volunteer work at Prisma Health Baptist Hospital shifted as well. Previously a volunteer supporting patients recovering from surgery, Stephens was transferred to the emergency department when the pandemic hit. She helped transfer patients safely and relayed information between family members to limit transmission of the virus.

“I find community public health very interesting and important,” Stephens says. “If we focus on helping the community as a whole, it takes a lot of strain off our infrastructure and helps keep each individual healthy.”

These experiences solidified Stephens’ goal of becoming a physician assistant. With support from her mentor, clinical associate professor Kara Montgomery, and a Capstone Fellow Professional Development Grant, she applied to the Medical University of South Carolina where she will begin her master’s program in May. Her goal is to work in an emergency department, treating immediate problems and using her public health knowledge and skills to educate patients about prevention.

“I have always lived by the mottos ‘realize your potential’ and ‘maximize your impact’, says Stephens, who graduates a semester early this month. “The field of healthcare provides a unique opportunity for both, with large areas for growth, continued education and interacting with patients you may not have encountered otherwise.”

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