This summer, I received a grant from the Social Science Scholars Program at Florida State University to complete a research project, internship, or volunteer project this summer. I had originally intended to use this grant to pursue a research internship in health policy, with a specific interest in the health of underserved women. However, due to COVID-19, most of these opportunities were canceled. Currently, I plan on using the grant awarded to present my honors thesis at a research conference and to offset the costs of applying to medical school.
With my plans on hold, I was initially unsure of how to move forward. I managed to secure a job as a medical assistant at a cardiology practice and have personally observed the toll COVID has taken on people of all backgrounds, particularly those of lower socioeconomic status. The inequality I have witnessed in my time as a medical assistant weighs heavy on my mind, and has inspired me to learn more about how the pandemic has affected those in underserved populations through a public health and policy lens. With a paucity of data at the beginning of the pandemic, I can understand how it would be difficult to make crucial policy decisions. However, rather than focusing on the past, I hope to focus on policy that could shape the future of COVID in the US and abroad while preserving the interests of underserved populations.
This December, I will complete my political science thesis in “The Political and Public Health Implications of Perinatal Mood Disorders” alongside my graduation from Florida State University. Through this research, I have connected with professors at the Florida State University College of Medicine and the director of the Master of Public Health Program at FSU. I have gained insight into the public health field through extensive research and collaboration with public health professionals. My experiences have reaffirmed my interest in approaching medicine from both a public health professional and physician standpoint, working to improve the health of both populations and individuals.
The Social Science Scholars program allowed me to take part in a weekly leadership seminar while providing a grant to complete a summer research project. The SSS program has been very flexible with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing me to change my project plans as needed. The diverse backgrounds and interests of the Scholars cohort inspired me and challenged me to reflect on my passions and motivations for attending medical school. Through my various research internships, as well as fellowship applications and weekly presentations in the seminar, my interests in health policy and healthcare has only grown. I am so honored to engage in this amazing program. I hope to give back and help other students reach their educational goals, just as Social Science Scholars has helped me.
Alexandria Tolbert is a student at Florida State University studying political science, chemistry, and psychology. Alexandria is a 2020 Social Science Scholar and Honors Medicine Scholar. You can connect with Alexandria on LinkedIn.
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