My four weeks of winter vacation are quickly coming to an end. Classes begin on Tuesday. As much as I love the University of Maryland, the classes, the professors, and the students, sometimes I get bogged down by all of the exams, papers, readings, homework assignment, and blackboard discussions. I have been known to lose my perspective; focusing on the short-term deliverables and forgetting about my dreams of becoming an epidemiologist.
In an effort to refresh my passion, I watched the movie And the Band Played On yesterday. The movie is based on the book (by the same title) which chronicles the AIDS epidemic from the very beginning. It touches upon the epidemiology, politics, economics, scandals, and personal trials in the fight to identify, control, and prevent the spread of HIV. I read the book during the summer of 2006, and it was my motivation for applying to PhD programs. To be honest, I'm not planning on studying or researching anything related to HIV/AIDS (although more work needs to be done and a vaccine needs to be developed); however, the work of the epidemiologists in the field and in the laboratory described in the book re-kindled my passion to study diseases and disease outbreaks.
So I watched the movie yesterday. Barely five minutes into it, I was reminded why I am in school right now; why I kill myself to write papers and study for exams; why I forgo sleep to finish a reading or to comment on blackboard. Allow me to describe the scene: the main character is in Africa in the late 1970s investigating a deadly disease outbreak along the Ebola River. The disease, later termed the Ebola virus, was controlled by physicians and epidemiologists working for the World Health Organization. After the doctors in the movie are shown throwing dead bodies into a fire to prevent further spread of the disease, the movie screen goes black and then it reads:
The Ebola Fever outbreak was contained before it could reach the outside world. It was not AIDS. But it was a warning of things to come.
This is why I am want to be an epidemiologist. There are diseases that need to be treated, contained, and prevented. And there are always new diseases on the horizon to be identified and controlled. This is what I want to do with my life. This is my passion: to understand diseases and how they spread. And then to work to create effective control and prevention measures to keep people healthy. Having this passion makes me feel so alive and inspired. I'm so excited.
I'm also left wondering...what will be the next "AIDS"? What, as an epidemiologist, will I face during my career? Are the diseases such as SARS, MRSA, and avian influenza warnings of things to come? Just like Ebola was for AIDS? I DON'T KNOW.
What I do know is that I am excited to be studying epidemiology now. I'm looking forward to the coming semester with a new/fresh perspective. This is all part of my journey to make my dream of becoming a world-class epidemiologist a reality.