Pandemic, incubation, quarantine — all words we know from history, but are now in the news everyday with the worldwide outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Many Adrian College alumni are working on the front lines in patient care as doctors and nurses. Jordan Powell, however, is among Adrian College’s alumni who have chosen epidemiology as a career. Epidemiology is the study of the emergence, distribution and control of disease, disability and death among groups of people.

A 2018 Adrian College biology grad, Powell originally planned to be a physician assistant, but her focus changed during a trip to Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

“My interest and exposure to epidemiology was ignited as I traveled with Adrian College students on an international learning trip in 2016,” Powell said. “Before we assisted with treating patients, we surveyed families in the villages to obtain information about their dwellings, lifestyles, and health history. This was when I first realized I was more interested in treating populations rather than individuals.”

Powell is currently attending Indiana University School of Public Health and is expected to graduate this year with a Master’s in Public Health (MPH) with a dual concentration in epidemiology and biostatistics.

Adrian College asked Powell to share a bit more about her field:

“Epidemiology is a unique and exciting field with many different directions to explore,” Powell said. “You can study chronic disease epidemiology, infectious disease epidemiology, social epidemiology, and even genetic epidemiology. It’s the study of the distribution of diseases that fall into these categories, and I like to think of it as being a disease detective. When there is an outbreak or pandemic such as the one we are experiencing now, it is the epidemiologist’s job to hunt down the source of the disease in addition to keeping the public informed of the expected trend of the disease through graphs and other data visualizations. The trends are predicted using various statistical models so I would highly recommend taking some statistics courses to feel prepared to enter this field.”

What advice does Powell have concerning COVID-19?

“While it’s an undeniably hectic situation we are experiencing with COVID-19, it has also been exciting to view it from a public health perspective. I cannot express how important it is to stay home and practice social distancing as these are the evidence-based practices that have been proven to flatten the curve in other parts of the world thus far.”

Are Powell and her classmates working on COVID-19 related projects?

“People are working around the clock to help in any way they can and that’s really what public health is all about — doing our part to make the population healthier. I am completing an internship remotely, and all our classes are online — plus, like so many colleges and universities across the country, there will be no graduation ceremony for us this year. Indiana University students including myself are volunteering by writing social media posts for the local health department, preparing to assist as part of a local call center, and sewing masks for local healthcare workers.”

What are her career plans?

“I am excited to have accepted a position as an epidemiologist with District Health Department No. 10 in Ludington, Mich., once I graduate in May. I expect this position will allow me to apply the knowledge obtained in my Master of Public Health courses in a range of topics from environmental health to chronic diseases. I really enjoy local public health because you get to see your data transform directly into action. To put a positive spin on this situation, I am glad public health is getting the exposure it deserves and hope that it results in more caring and intelligent minds being drawn to this field!”

Powell is among the many Adrian College students who have found careers in unexpected corners of the large, complex field of health care. Adrian College has other alumni who are trained in gerontology (multidisciplinary study of the physical, mental, social and societal aspects of aging) in health policy and management, and in environmental health policy.

Most fields require a master’s degree, and Adrian College offers all prerequisite courses to enroll in these professional programs. For more information, visit