Meighan Rogers '98 was recently appointed to assist the Center for Disease Control's (CDC) emergency operation team on the SARS outbreak. "[While working on the team,] I really gained an understanding and appreciation for how public health agencies at the state and federal level need to deal with the public and the media in order to make sure that they are safeguarding the public's health, while not causing widespread panic," she said. In addition to aiding the CDC in their goals to provide guidance and possible treatments for this global virus, Meighan works for the National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities in their health policy office. Her appointment is part of a three-year fellowship from the Public Health Prevention Service that allows Meighan experience in both the CDC offices and in the field.
Her current employment resulted from a long interest in public health. Following her graduation from Bowdoin, Meighan spent two years working at Massachusetts General Hospital, doing clinical research in endocrinology. During that time she also volunteered at a rape crisis center. It was through these two experiences that she first became interested in public health and epidemiology. "I think that I had always been fascinated by public health type concepts, such as disease prevention, and the tracking of epidemics, but just didn't realize at first that these things actually were 'public health.'" She completed a master's at Yale in public health with a concentration on epidemiology.
Her interest in community health issues, however, began even before graduate school. During her senior year at Bowdoin, as part of a child development psychology class, she volunteered at the Bath-Brunswick Child Care Center, where she worked with pre-schoolers who had developmental disabilities. "I found that really rewarding and interesting, and in a way I think that kind of work has transferred over into my public health career." In addition to community service, Meighan sang in the chorus, played rugby, went on outing club trips, and enjoyed taking English courses. "Bowdoin not only taught me analytic skills and how to synthesize ideas and information, but also how to formulate my own ideas and opinions, and how to articulate and present them to people," she said. "Ultimately, I have found that utilizing the skills I developed and strengthened at Bowdoin is what has given me access to CDC and public health." These skills were honed in places like the library, the lab, and even the Giant Steps on a marine biology field trip: "Learning about developmental biology with our Medaka fish-those were fun days!"
Now, in Atlanta, Meighan swims, hikes, cooks, and goes to the movies. "I am doing a couple of sprint triathlons this summer, so that is keeping me pretty busy." Oh, and if her involvement in making budgets for CDC autism programs, participating in a SARS think-tank, and competing in three-sport races weren't enough, she has also been taking pottery classes this year. She said, "I think playing with clay is a big stress reliever and a lot of fun!"
For the next couple of years, Meighan will be working as a CDC employee assigned to the health department in a state of her choice. "I couldn't be happier right now with where I am in my career." She hopes to be able to use her skills in epidemiology to work closely with community-based public health programs. Looking into the future, Meighan sees herself in this field for the long haul: she is interested in mental health, HIV/AIDS and injury/domestic violence, and may go back for her PhD in social epidemiology. Outside of these institutional goals, she said, "I love that public health attempts to integrate such different disciplines as epidemiology, psychology, sociology, health education, basic science, and clinical medicine to attack problems. I think that it really keeps you thinking outside the box in order to find solutions to promote good health."
By Lauren M. Whaley '03
This profile originally appeared in Bowdoin magazine, Vol. 74, No. 3, Spring 2003
Posted January 25, 2005