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Arnold School of Public Health

I Am Public Health: Emily Farrell

March 1, 2023 | Erin Bluvas,

“Public health is the unsung hero of healthy communities and often never receives the credit it deserves,” says Emily Farrell, a candidate in the Master of Public Health (MPH) in Epidemiology program. “I find myself drawn to the idea of being the one behind the scenes and ensuring everything is smooth sailing.”

Originally from New Jersey, Farrell began her health sciences career just 90 minutes southwest at the University of Delaware. There, she studied health behavior science, gained research experience in behavioral health and nutrition, and served as a pre-graduate fellow for Healthy Communities Delaware upon graduation. She also began looking into MPH programs.

Public health is the unsung hero of healthy communities and often never receives the credit it deserves. I find myself drawn to the idea of being the one behind the scenes and ensuring everything is smooth sailing.

Emily Farrell

During this process, Farrell met with Arnold School faculty, including assistant professor Michael Wirth, who holds a dual appointment in epidemiology and with the College of Nursing. She felt at home in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and found her research interests and goals aligned with Wirth’s, who offered Farrell a graduate research assistantship with his Shift-working Investigation of Fasting and Timing (SHIFT) of Diet in Nurses Study.

Serving as project coordinator for the SHIFT Study, Farrell created surveys and dietary logs, organized study documents and analyzed data. This semester, she is presenting their findings at the South Carolina Public Health Association’s annual meeting (one of only four graduate students to be invited to do so) as well as a departmental event.

Earlier in her master’s program, Farrell worked with Wirth on a study looking at the connections between dietary inflammation, sleep and energy balance. She presented their findings at Discover USC, winning the Arnold School Poster Session, and served as first author on a paper the research team recently published in Nutrients.

“Dr. Wirth always encourages me to strive past my academic and professional goals, and I will forever be grateful for my time working with him,” Farrell says. “He reminds me how capable I can be, even when I don’t see it myself.”

In addition to interests in nutrition, sleep and health behavior, Farrell has developed a passion for maternal and child health (MCH) during her time at USC. Working closely with MCH Catalyst Program director and epidemiology professor Jihong Liu, Farrell is in the final semester of the MCH Certificate of Graduate Study and joined the MCH Student Association. Last summer, she gained additional experience in the field as an intern with the South Carolina Department for Health and Environmental Control, analyzing PRAMS data by assessing non-response biases and WIC Nutrition program participant achievements.

“I could not think of a better advisor for these roles, as Dr. Liu is intelligent and always able to offer me the advice I didn’t know I needed to hear,” says Farrell, who also found mentors in former and current graduate directors Linda Hazlett and Myriam Torres. “They have been beyond supportive of all of my endeavors and have been the glue that holds me together when life gets stressful.”

Long term, she is interested in leading an MCH department for a government agency. She is also interested in returning to graduate school to complete a doctoral degree in epidemiology.

“Epidemiology is incredibly fascinating to me because we have the ability to use data to derive the truth behind phenomena and provide motivation for change through evidence-based associations,” Farrell says. “The gratification knowing there will one day be societal benefit from my work makes my heart feel so full.”

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