Emma McMillan



Undergraduate Institution: Brown University
Undergraduate Major: Public Health

Why did you choose the Brown University School of Public Health?
I wanted to continue studying specific topics within Public Health that I discovered an interest in as an undergraduate at Brown. In my junior year, I decided to apply for Brown’s AB/MPH program, excited to engage in public health research and advocacy, as part of a cohort of students excited to learn and do public health.

What makes Brown’s program different from other programs you considered?
Brown’s School of Public Health follows the mantra of learning public health by doing public health. Especially during COVID-19, the MPH program has given us the opportunity to engage with and hear from a variety of public health leaders. Brown’s MPH program also has a robust advising structure built into its curriculum, which was very helpful for seeking an MPH thesis advisor and finding other research opportunities. 

What do you enjoy most about your program?
I really appreciate the availability of faculty and the collaborative energy of my MPH cohort. Staff members, especiallly Joann Barao and Elizabeth Jackovny, have been extremely helpful in helping plan coursework. In addition, Dr. Gjelsvik is doing an incredible job running the core classes of the program during this pandemic. I enjoy working with my cohort and hearing about their unique experiences, as well as career and further academic aspirations. It is wonderful to be part of such a welcoming and engaged cohort.

What is your academic area of interest and why?
I am pursuing an MPH in applied epidemiology and biostatistics because I am most interested in how data can be used to inform health and policy decisions. My major topic interests are sports head trauma and the use of opioids to treat chronic non-cancer pain. I’ve been interested in studying concussion since working as a research assistant on a lawsuit involving CTE and the NCAA in 2018,  and as a former athlete who has dealt with a different kind of “invisible injury” in the past. This fall, I am developing a supplemental concussion education program based on qualitative and quantitative research I conducted with athletes and coaches for my undergraduate thesis. My master’s thesis is a systematic review of the use of the enriched enrollment randomized withdrawal study design in studies of opioids used to treat chronic non-cancer pain. 

What are your postgraduate goals/plans?
My junior year, I began the MPH program as a premed student, and with the intent to pursue a career in medicine. Since joining the MPH program, I’ve realized that I am more interested in the impact of policy for combating health-related issues. I would like to practice health law and potentially teach public health or law later in my life. 

Why Providence?
Even though I’ve lived in Rhode Island for most of my life, I continue to learn new things about it from fellow students or faculty. Providence winters can be a bit slushy, but are very manageable with a solid pair of boots and a warm coat. I love the outdoors, so for me it is nice that the bike path is easily accessible from campus, and there is a lot of green space around campus. Also, New England falls are colorful and very pleasant.

What advice would you give to prospective applicants?
Especially early in the process, don’t be afraid to reach out to SPH faculty and students! I’ve found SPH faculty and students very helpful, especially when seeking advice about what courses to take, internships to apply for, faculty to connect with, and so much more. My more general advice is that you don’t need to know exactly what you want to do with your MPH degree before beginning the program. I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I’d like to do as a career while being part of this program. Feel free to reach out to me or other students if you’d like to chat about anything!