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Alumni Profile: Haeyoon Chang, MPH '18 (Chronic Disease Epidemiology)

July 13, 2022

Chronic Disease Epidemiology, M.P.H. ’18
Ph.D. Student, Univ. of Michigan

What is your current job?

I am a second-year epidemiology Ph.D. student at the University of Michigan under the supervision of Dr. Lindsay Kobayashi. My research investigates the impact of Old Age Pension (OAP) expansion on cardiovascular disease disparities among older men in rural South Africa. I hope my research will provide a valuable contribution to understanding cardiovascular health in the aging population in a resource-constrained setting.

Describe your work and why you find it rewarding/challenging.

The Old age Pension (OAP) incrementally expanded age eligibility from 65 to 60 among men. I exploit this to design a quasi-experimental study to evaluate the association of additional income in later life on health outcomes. I find pursuing doctoral studies rewarding by discovering new knowledge and I am hopeful about making a difference in society. Of course, it is challenging to develop new skills such as academic writing. However, I hope my work will better inform policy decisions related to social protections by defining the social contours of the association of the OAP expansion with cardiovascular health in a low-income, rural region of South Africa.

How did YSPH prepare you for your current work?

The internship was the highlight of my YSPH experience. As a research assistant with the Makerere University-Yale University Collaboration, I conducted qualitative research on hypertension and diabetes care challenges in rural Uganda and published the findings. The experience inspired me to pursue advanced knowledge that will make a tangible difference and equipped me with the quantitative and qualitative research skills that are necessary to investigate relationships between chronic diseases and their risk factors. In addition, I undertook challenging theoretical, analytical, and practice-based courses that helped me strengthen the academic resilience required for Ph.D. students.

Do you have a favorite YSPH experience you can share?

My favorite YSPH experience is making lifelong friends and going to Arethusa (ice cream store!) with them. The advantage of a small YSPH cohort is that anyone will find people with similar interests or even shared academic or life goals. The friends that I made have helped me see things from different perspectives and assisted me by suggesting different approaches to achieving my goals. From going to school events to taking classes together, my YSPH friends still to this day keep me grounded.

What advice do you have for current students?

My advice for current students is to take advantage of your internship experience and alumni network. Be proactive about reaching out to faculty and alumni for internship or research opportunities. Yale has great funding resources, but you have to be proactive and do not hesitate to reach out to your colleagues or the career development office for support. Most of all, do not worry, and everything will be fine. I also encourage students to take on part-time jobs and to participate in school events or intramural sports. Volunteering, going to different Yale community events, and joining the rugby team helped me find strengths from struggles.

Were there any faculty or staff mentors who influenced your YSPH experience?

Dr. Nicola Hawley was a significant influence on my YSPH experience. From the very beginning, she took the time to listen to my ideas and challenges. In addition, she was always happy to talk about my goals and connect me with others. Her encouragement gave me the confidence to pursue my Ph.D., and I am incredibly grateful for her support and trust in her students. I am also grateful to Dr. Debbie Humphries for her class - practice-based community health, where I learned the real-world application of public health scholarship and advocacy. Also, I will always be grateful to Dr. Tracy Rabin for the opportunity to work with her on my summer project. She was always there to support me academically and personally while I was in Uganda and provided me with resourceful advice that advanced my knowledge in global health.

Finally, I will always be grateful to Dr. Mayur Desai, who took the time to listen to me with patience and support for his students' future endeavors.

Submitted by Denise Meyer on December 06, 2021