May they remember my name

One of the classes that I’m taking this term is “Epidemiologic Basis for Tuberculosis Control”. It is a course that was originally taught at Hopkins by Dr. George W. Comstock. He passed away in 2007, but not before he made a huge mark on the world of infectious disease epidemiology in general and tuberculosis epidemiology and treatment in particular. The first lecture online opened and closed with music by Dr. Comstock. He apparently loved to play the recorder. Other lectures will include recorder thoughts from Dr. Comstock from different lectures that he gave across the years.

We get promised eternal life by religion and tradition all the time. If that eternal life exists or not is a matter not for this blog. It’s better discussed in a class on philosophy or theology. But it is very, very interesting to me that here we have some evidence of a life after death. Dr. Comstock speaks to us students even after he has passed away. Many years from now, when we eradicate tuberculosis (maybe), we will look back at Dr. Comstock’s knowledge and teachings as a basis for achieving that. So he lives on because he devoted himself to an ideal and became something else entirely, to quasi-quote a superhero movie.

This gets me thinking about my own contributions to the world. Will I be remembered long after I’m gone? I hope so, and that’s is a tiny sliver of a reason why I do what I do. I want my great-grandchild to one day — one hundred years or so from now — open a box of pictures and be told all about the stuff that I did. With the advent of electronic communications like this blog, I hope he can read these words and know that I was hellbent on doing something about all the injustice and inequality in the world, that I love his great-grandmother with a passion of a thousand suns, and that I value my friends more than gold or any other treasure.

Hey, one can dream, right?

As this second year of the doctor of public health adventure goes on, I will have to make preparations to propose and begin a thesis. What that thesis will be about, I do not know. A friend and mentor told me that it should be something that makes me marketable once I get the degree. I agree. It would do me no good to do the thesis on something that will not attract employment or even limit my choices. Sure, a degree from Hopkins goes a long way from what I’ve heard, but I still want to show any future employers that I am very capable of bringing something innovative and productive to the party.

Right now, I’m looking at doing my dissertation on something about social epidemiology. In my work at the health department, I found that a lot of the outbreaks and clusters of diseases that we investigated has some social component to them. For example, one big outbreak of Legionnaires disease was in people living in old and somewhat dilapidated housing. Legionella species bacteria grow in relatively warm water that is undisturbed. A lot of the water pipes in that particular neighborhood led to dead ends in abandoned housing. The bacteria probably grew there and then were released when construction started on the utilities down the street. That’s my theory, anyway. So I think that we can apply epidemiological concepts to different social ailments and combat them that way.

Time will tell if I go that route with my thesis or do something completely different, and time will also tell if I am remembered for it many years from now.

I'm a fourth-year doctoral candidate in the Doctor of Public Health program at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. All opinions posted here are my own, of course, and they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my school, employers, friends, family, etc. Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @EpiRen