Lesley Park, MPH '10

Working in biostatistics kindled passion for public health

A double major in math and French at the University of Virginia led Lesley Park, MPH ’10, first to France—and then, once back in the U.S., to a career using numbers to illuminate public health issues.

A native of Fairfax, Va., Park taught English to elementary–school children in France, volunteering for community groups there to get a taste of public service. “Back to reality” the next year, she landed a position in the biostatistics department at the Harvard School of Public Health, where she mastered SAS software supporting statistical analysis. “My boss took a chance on me,” she says. “I gained skills just from being around experts in the field.” Within the school’s Center for Biostatistics in AIDS Research (CBAR), Park contributed to studies of the AIDS Clinical Trials Group, one of the largest HIV clinical trials networks in the country. The job was an eye–opener about the impact of disease and the difference public health can make in the world,” she says.

Her passion for public health confirmed, Park set her sights on YSPH. “I liked the size of the program, the accessibility of the faculty and the community aspect,” she says. “There’s a sense among my colleagues that we’re all in this together.” Selecting the Chronic Disease Epidemiology department furnished a “breadth of knowledge” beyond her HIV expertise, heightening her awareness of cardiovascular diseases like stroke, diabetes and hypertension that pose challenges to global health. Animated by extra–curricular activities, Park is the community–service chair of the Student Association Yale School of Public Health (SAYPH) and serves on the School’s new Community Connections Committee, or C3 .This summer, Park—selected for the prestigious Downs International Health Student Travel Fellowship—will conduct her own research into HIV transmission rates in Thailand at the United Nations Population Fund’s Bangkok office. “This will be the first time that I design a study from start to finish,” she says. “I’m ready for the challenge.”