Epidemiology – I won’t be a skin doctor
Background (and what is epidemiology, exactly?)
Since some time around the midpoint of my undergraduate education, it became my dream to be an epidemiological researcher. According to dictionary.com, epidemiology is “the branch of medicine dealing with the incidence and prevalence of disease in large populations and with detection of the source and cause of infectious [and chronic] disease.” I’m often asked, “so you will be a skin doctor?” That is a dermatologist. I believe people confuse epidermis (the outer layer of skin), Epidemiology, and dermatologist.
My undergraduate experience in geography and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) enables me to look at disease distribution through a spatial lens. I want to research things such as, “why is the incidence of Lyme disease growing faster in the Houston, Texas area than expected?” I will be able to use spatial analytical skills and apply them to epidemiological research to determine why individuals in certain areas contract disease at a higher rate than others.
I was accepted into the Master of Science (M.S.) epidemiology program at the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth. My plan is to earn my M.S. degree before pursuing a Ph.D. and working in academia. The cost of graduate school made me uneasy as I was highly reluctant to heap on more debt to student loan balance accrued during my undergraduate education. I was told many times by one of my professors at UNT Denton, “do not pay to go to graduate school. Someone should be paying you to go.” I thought the odds of that happening were slim to none. I was wrong.
I had been praying that somehow it would work. I had been planning to earn this degree for some time and would have been crushed to see it slip through my fingers due to funding issues. Graduate school is expensive. The past few months have been rather tumultuous for my wife and me. She finished her degree in Health Administration and has been applying to jobs relentlessly, we were christmated into the Orthodox Church, we’ve had numerous issues with both of our vehicles, and a seemingly endless litany of other issues. The stress of having to find a way to fund my education was almost too much to bear.
On 16 June 2017, I received an email from the Director of Admissions. The subject line read “UNTHSC – Tuition & Fees Awarded.” My heart raced. As I opened the message, I thought, “this can’t be what I think it is.”
We are pleased to be able to offer you two years of funding contingent on full-time enrollment in the fall/spring terms, being in good academic standing, and making satisfactory progress toward degree completion.
I was elated. This was the answer to my prayers. I feel that I’m completely undeserving of this, but God came through anyway. I could not (and still can’t) believe that I am going to graduate school for free. Two months later, and I am still in complete awe. This good news was a nice respite to a quite stressful summer.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
I’ll be starting classes 14 August 2017. I know that it won’t be easy and that the funding challenge was only the beginning. The amount of free time I’m going to lose is going to be difficult to become accustomed to again. I won’t be able to spend as much time with family and friends as my weekends will be spent studying and completing homework. Nor will I be able to attend church events due to the same. I do feel guilty about this and I wish it weren’t so but I feel a big responsibility to do well in school, especially since I’ve received funding.
I want to end this with a display of gratitude. This wouldn’t be possible without the support of my incredible wife, Danae. I know that she is not thrilled with my free time being eaten up by school but she knows that this is my dream and is willing to put up with it. She has helped me every step of the way, both in action and in prayer. My parents who raised me to meet challenges head-first, never shirking away from them. Finally, and most importantly, God, for allowing this opportunity and for allowing me the skills and resources to even have an interest in epidemiology.