Name: Aneeka Ratnayake
Class Year: 2018
Hometown: Toronto, Canada
Major: Public Health Studies
Minor: Global Environmental Change and Sustainability
Current Job: Graduate Student, Teaching Assistant and Research Assistant at Bloomberg School of Public Health
What was your path from graduation to your current job? I applied directly to a Masters of Science in Public Health at Bloomberg. From my experiences in HIV research as a undergraduate, I was able to apply to be a TA for a course on the epidemiology of HIV, and work as an interviewer for a community health project focused on behavioral predictors of HIV, called BESURE. This project, too, is run out of Hopkins.
Did you have any pre-professional experiences at JHU? I spent my first three summers interning as a research assistant at the Ontario HIV Treatment Network, a provincially-run organization in Canada aimed at reducing the burden of HIV through evidence-based practices and policies. The summer between my undergraduate and graduate degrees, I worked as a research coordinator for Helen Keller International in Guinea, on a project examining drivers of food choice in mining communities.
What extracurriculars were you involved with at JHU? I was CEO of Kappa Alpha Theta, an executive member of Hoptoberfest (JHU’s fall festival), a member of Blue Key Society (student admissions volunteers), and involved in multiple research projects at the Bloomberg School of Public Health.
In what was did your Hopkins education prepare you for your career? Hopkins prepared me for my career both inside and outside the classroom. I’ve been fortunate to learn both from my professors as well as from my peers in challenging, rigorous courses. Hopkins classes challenged me to develop solutions for ongoing public health problems, to which there is no single, correct answer. Moreover, having the Hopkins name attached to my resume gave me the opportunity to secure an internship that exposed me to the realities of public health in practice. In addition, my research at Hopkins as been instrumental in my understanding of the field of public. health, and in helping me determine my area of focus for graduate school.
Any classes, faculty members, or involvements at JHU that helped to shape your career interest? I am forever grateful to Dr. Peter Winch for cementing my interest in global health. It was through him that I was able to work for Helen Keller International in Guinea. Moreover, Dr. Farzadegan, Dr. German, and Dr. Maulsby all helped further my understanding of HIV through both courses and research. Working with them is always a pleasure, and I am constantly learning in their presence. I also learned a lot through my French, Spanish and creative writing courses. Though these are not in my field, I’ve found myself using language and writing skills in my everyday work in Global Health.
What part of being a Hopkins student do you miss the most? I will miss hearing about all the innovative undertakings of my peers. Everyone is always doing something interesting, and it’s great to be able to learn from them.
How did going to school in Baltimore affect your college experience and opportunities for preprofessional experiences? Baltimore is an incredibly interesting city due to its diverse population. Given my interest in HIV, Baltimore offered an environment to study social and behavioral determinants of health, in the context of this disease.
Knowing what you know now, what would you want to tell your pre-college self? Try as much as you can. I have been a part of studies and courses that I’ve unexpectedly loved, simply because I took a risk. For example, I took the course “Oral Presentations” on a whim, and it ended up being one of my favorite courses. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone — not everything has to fit a predetermined plan.