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Arnold School of Public Health

Public health graduate to join elite training program at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

June 30, 2021 | Erin Bluvas,

Although she spent most of her childhood in the upstate, Eliana (Ellie) Lord lived in the Columbia area for a short time. Touring the UofSC campus as a high school student felt like coming home, and Lord knew that she truly belonged at Carolina. The chance to earn a degree from an outstanding school on a full scholarship confirmed her decision.

“As a low-income student from a large family with no hope of paying for college out of pocket, the deciding factor for me came in the form of a Stamps Scholarship to attend the South Carolina Honors College debt-free,” Lord says.

With plans to change the American healthcare system through a career in medicine, Lord began her undergraduate tenure as a biology major. After getting involved in extracurricular activities centered around public health, she changed her focus.

I became aware that health outcomes are more often determined by our environments rather than our individual choices.

-Ellie Lord, B.S. in Public Health 2021

As advocacy chair and later president of the student organization, Timmy Global Health, Lord organized speakers and activities for events, presented at biweekly meetings and served as the liaison between the UofSC chapter and national headquarters. Working with health promotion, education, and behavior (HPEB) associate professor Brie Turner-McGrievy, Lord served as a research assistant on the NEW Soul Study aimed at improving health and reducing cardiovascular disease among African Americans. Off campus, Lord volunteered at Prisma Health’s COVID-19 vaccine clinic, multiple hospice organizations and the Carolina Survivors’ Clinic.    

“I became aware that health outcomes are more often determined by our environments rather than our individual choices,” Lord says. “Consequently, I switched my major to public health in order to hopefully address determinants of health in the future.”

Lord also majored in Spanish, which she leveraged at the Carolina Survivors’ Clinic while working with refugees. She also put her language skills to use as a summer student at the Universidad de Cádiz followed by a cultural exchange program as a Global Leadership Fulbright Scholar at the University of Westminster.     

At the Arnold School, Lord found mentors in HPEB senior instructor April Winningham and clinical associate professor Kara Montgomery. “Dr. Winningham coached me through my ‘what now’ phase after changing my major and introduced me to all of the incredible opportunities and possibilities aside from a medical degree,” Lord says. “Dr. Montgomery has gone out of her way so many times to ensure I have all that I need to be successful – in her course and in life – and encouraged me to apply to the CDC’s Public Health Associate Program, which I will begin in October.”

Highly competitive, this two-year training program matches candidates with public health agencies and nongovernmental organizations in the United States where they will work in a variety of public health settings. This hands-on experience will serve as a foundation for their public health careers. Lord, who is the first Arnold School graduate accepted into the program in ten years (2011 alumna Sarah Ali also completed the program), will work on STD prevention at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. 

“This program will allow me the opportunity to network and develop myself professionally while determining where I am best fit to serve in public health,” says Lord, who is also looking forward to exploring a new city. “I will become much better acquainted with public health fieldwork and how ground floor CDC operations are conducted, which will give me a solid foundation for a successful career working in public health organizations.”

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