Claire Schertzing, MSU MPH class of 2020

Knowing more education increases life expectancy and influences healthy living, Claire Schertzing is transforming the academic journey for many low-income first-generation college students. Claire is at the top of her MPH class, earning a 4.0 GPA and an invitation to the Phi Kappa Phi honor society. She is interested in a career in global health with a particular interest in the prevention and control of infectious diseases like malaria.

August 7, 2020

Where do you work?
I am a Mentor Coordinator for the Talent Search (TS) program at Michigan State University. We help low-income first-generation potential college students succeed academically from secondary through post-baccalaureate education.

I am responsible for overseeing the student tutors employed by TS and assisting the program coordinator with in-class outreach activities and college visits. I coordinate and oversee tutors, help plan and conduct in-class outreach activities, and support college exposure field trips.

Why are you pursuing a public health degree?
I pursued a degree in public health because it allowed me to combine my love of human health and biological sciences with my interest in how culture shapes a person's experience. I wanted to be able to make a difference in the lives of people globally, and public health gave me the ability to do that.

Why did you choose Michigan State University?
I chose Michigan State because I grew up in the MSU community, and I knew that MSU's international connections and world-class faculty would be able to provide me with the type of globally focused public health education I was seeking.

What does being a Michigan State Spartan mean to you?
Being a Spartan means community; it means personal relationships with professors who are interested in and dedicated to my learning and success. It means the support of the entire university community and the opportunities that come with that closeness.

What is the topic of your Public Health Capstone paper?
My capstone paper seeks to explore the impact of P. vivax and P. falciparum malaria on pregnancy and fetal outcomes in India. It is titled "A proposal to examine the impact of malaria on pregnancy and fetal outcomes in two high-burden locations in India." My capstone proposes to compare the effects of Plasmodium vivax infection (vivax malaria) and P. falciparum infection (falciparum malaria) in pregnancy, and whether relapsing vivax malaria episodes have a dose-response effect on pregnancy and fetal outcome.

The study aims to provide a more in-depth understanding of the effects of vivax malaria on pregnancy outcomes. P. vivax is a complex health issue due to the parasite’s unique ability to exist in a dormant hypnozoite stage in the human body and the contraindication of curative drugs, due to the harm they would cause to the patient in pregnancy. The findings will help determine the need for safer treatments for vivax malaria in pregnancy.
80% of global vivax malaria cases are concentrated in only three countries: Indonesia, Pakistan, and India, with India alone accounting for eighteen percent of global vivax cases in 2014.

What professional or educational accomplishment are you most proud?
I am most proud of my admission to the Phi Kappa Phi honor society this year.

About membership in The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi:
Membership is earned, and admission is by invitation only. Graduate students must have completed at least 18 graduate hours or the equivalent at their institution and rank in the top 10 percent of their class.

What are your plans after graduating with your MPH?
I will be continuing my studies at the doctoral level, moving over to the department of epidemiology and biostatistics to begin my PhD in epidemiology. Through my continued graduate work, I intend to continue exploring global health, specifically the prevention and control of tropical infectious diseases so that I can work to combat diseases like malaria, which causes huge burdens on the global population.

What has been the most influential moment of your practicum experience?
The most influential part of my practicum thus far is not a single moment but rather an ongoing series of moments. I have conducted my practicum experience in my workplace due to challenges related to the COVID pandemic. Because of close relationships with coworkers, my practicum experience has been marked by meaningful conversations about incorporating my project into future student programming. We plan to apply my public health knowledge to identify deliverables that will serve students above and beyond what we already do. Being able to make such a tangible and meaningful impact on how we serve our students has been incredibly impactful, and being able to teach my coworkers about public health along the way has been an amazing end to my MPH experience.

What words of wisdom do you want to share with prospective MPH students?
Take every opportunity you can to connect with your professors and explore different aspects of public health, keep an open mind to new classes and experiences because there's a world of possibility, and the MPH faculty are incredible mentors.

Anything else you would like to add?
I want to say thank you to each and every person who makes the MPH program what it is; it's been an incredible two years of learning and growth as a person, a student, and a future public health professional.

Claire Schertzing,
MPH class of 2020
B.A. Spanish Language and Literature; B.A. Biology