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Arnold School of Public Health

May graduate earns public health degree as foundation for career in medicine

May 11, 2022 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu

After growing up in a small North Carolina town, Madison Petersen knew she wanted a change of scenery for her college experience. A former cross country teammate attended UofSC and recommended Petersen apply to the flagship university.

Acceptance into the Honors College (No. 1 in the nation among public universities) and a campus tour confirmed Columbia was where she wanted to spend the next four years. Armed with a UofSC Academic Scholar Excellence Award (worth more than $90,000) to support her studies, Petersen only needed to find her ideal major.

After attending one of the ‘get to know the campus’ events, I fell in love with what the Arnold School representative was saying about the school and the goals of public health. I knew I had found my major.

-Madison Petersen, B.S. in Public Health 2022

“I knew I wanted to go into some sort of health sciences career,” she says. “After attending one of the ‘get to know the campus’ events, I fell in love with what the Arnold School representative was saying about the school and the goals of public health. I knew I had found my major.”

During her program, Petersen gained research experience with the Arnold Childhood Obesity Initiative and UofSC Connect Lab as well as the National Cancer Institute-funded Cancer Education Program at the University of Louisville. Her activities in these areas helped Petersen earn Graduation with Leadership Distinction in Research (Fun fact: the Arnold School consistently ranks among the leaders at the university for the number of graduates who receive this honor).   

“My research experiences have ranged from examining prognostic features for diagnosing/staging colon cancer to improving healthy eating and physical activity habits for younger children to reduce morbidity/mortality later in life,” Petersen says. “Honestly, anything in public health I feel you could spend a lifetime researching!”

Petersen also gained experience as a care manager assistant with Aging Outreach Service and as a volunteer with Liberty Hospice. She served as treasurer for the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children, undergraduate representative for the Arnold School’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Student Executive Committee, volunteer for Gamecock Pantry, community outreach chair for the Public Health Society, representative for the student section of the South Carolina Public Health Association, and peer mentor for the Honors College. In her spare time, Petersen attended as many Gamecock events as possible (particularly women’s sports) and even attended every home women’s basketball game this year during their NCAA National Championship season.

I have had some absolutely phenomenal professors throughout my four years that have helped shape me and allow me to grow and be exposed to the field of public health,

-Madison, Petersen, B.S. in Public Health 2022

After graduating this month with a B.S. in Public Health, Petersen will complete a master’s degree in biomedical sciences at Rocky Vista University with the long-term goal of integrating her public health knowledge as an osteopathic physician. She has already earmarked part of her future earnings for tickets to support Gamecock athletics as a UofSC alum.  

Her advice to prospective students includes getting involved in activities by keeping up with Arnold School events on social media, talking to peers and participating in service organizations. She also recommends building relationships with course instructors.

“I have had some absolutely phenomenal professors throughout my four years that have helped shape me and allow me to grow and be exposed to the field of public health,” Petersen says. “Every professor is different, with different life experiences, and so, so, so, so much knowledge that they can share. I think getting to know professors, even just a little bit, can help, and has helped me, grow into who I am today.”


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