Pipeline program: VCU Acceleration (2009)
Year in school: Second year Master of Science candidate in the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
High school/hometown: Sussex Central High School, Emporia, VA.
Interview Date: Winter 2015
Virgie Fields’ academic and career goals have been shaped by her willingness to explore and above all, her desire to help people in need. Even as a child, Fields was aware of and attuned to the medical needs of those around her, and as early as elementary school felt an interest in becoming a doctor. Through her experiences in college however, Fields saw the opportunity to combine research and medicine, moving the focus from one-on-one patient care to public health.
Coming from a small rural high school, Fields had the benefit of forming relationships with her teachers and school guidance counselor. Knowing Fields’ interest in medicine and in attending VCU, they encouraged her to apply to the VCU Acceleration Program.
“I applied… because I was interested in learning more about the health sciences, particularly medicine at the time,” Fields recalled. “[Acceleration] seemed like a great opportunity that…would make the transition into college easier and provide resources for following a path to a health professional career.”
Acceleration helped Fields learn about the wide diversity of health science careers that she had never considered before, beyond medicine.
“College is about exploration… I became interested in studying and working to improve population health – the health of a community – and that’s when my interest in public health formed,” reflected Fields.
With this new perspective on healthcare, Fields took advantage of research opportunities presented by the VCU Center on Health Disparities and after her junior year she participated in the Harvard Chan School Summer Program in Epidemiology.
“Similar to medicine, public health assesses the health of a population, identifies its problems, investigates the causes, and devises strategies to solve/improve them. Oftentimes, this involves coordination of several sectors of society and leads to policy developments and regulations. I felt this was exactly what I was looking for in a career,” Fields recalled.
Fields completed her undergraduate education with a B.S. degree in Biomedical Engineering at VCU in May 2013. Presently, she is a Master of Science candidate in the Infectious Disease Epidemiology program at the Harvard Chan School. Fields is expected to graduate in May 2015 and hopes to work for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“The CDC focuses national attention on relevant issues related to health and promotes the development and application of disease control and prevention. The CDC, to me, epitomizes public service,” said Fields.