MPH@GW Student Spotlight: Nicholas Whipple
Nicholas Whipple has provided medical care to people in remote villages in Peru and Ghana. He has worked to combat health disparities in rural Mississippi, and he has treated children with cancer and blood-related disorders at St. Jude Hospital. What career milestone will he reach next? For Nicholas, the next step is earning an MPH degree from MPH@GW. Find out why Nicholas is thrilled to be a part of the MPH@GW program and learn more about his goals for the future in the interview below.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I grew up in Tupelo, Mississippi, and consider myself a southern boy. After serving for two years in Guatemala as a Mormon missionary, I returned home unsure of what educational course to pursue. I watched the movie Patch Adams for the first time and felt that medicine would make an unforgettable, worthwhile career. I’m board certified in pediatrics and will complete my fellowship in pediatric hematology-oncology at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in 2016.
Why and when did you decide to earn an MPH degree?
During my fourth year of medical school, I spent two weeks in Peru, floating the Amazon River and providing health care training and medical care to residents of remote villages. Then, as a pediatric resident, I spent a month in Ghana helping to train community health workers. These experiences were unforgettable and opened my eyes to the world of global health and public health. Coming from Mississippi, I have seen obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other preventable conditions overcome individuals’ lives. Working in rural Mississippi in Tutwiler and Belzoni taught me the value of recognizing health disparities and serving those who live in less fortunate conditions. As a pediatrician, I have seen parents become misguided and disillusioned by bad science and ultimately refuse vaccinations for their children. And as a fellow at St. Jude, I have come to recognize the value in understanding epidemiology, biostatistics, population dynamics, environmental and carcinogenic exposures, and in being proficient when reading medical literature. Collectively, these experiences changed me. And now, earning an MPH seems like the logical next step and the right thing to do. It is as though I found “my people” when I found public health. Earning an MPH is teaching me how to be a better physician.
Why did you choose the MPH@GW program?
I wanted to enroll in a thriving MPH program that was seasoned and well respected. I needed a program that would allow virtual attendance, as my training at St. Jude would not allow for frequent travel. Other MPH programs I investigated required late-night classes or frequent travel, which would take me away from my wife and church duties to a degree greater than I was willing to commit. The MPH@GW setup gives me flexibility as I get to select what time I take a course and whether I attend class from work or home. My admissions counselor, Lacey French, told me she wanted me to become part of the GW family and that GW wanted me to be a Colonial. I got the sense that being part of GW would make me part of a classy community and that I would be proud to be an alumnus.
Do you have a desired focus area?
I am gearing many of my electives toward global health, as I hope to make it a permanent part of my career path. I’m also hoping to take more courses in epidemiology, as they will prove hugely beneficial in my field of oncology.
Do you have a favorite class and professor?
As I’m only just completing my second module, I have many wonderful classes yet to take. Recently, I have really enjoyed the Principles and Practice of Epidemiology course, which uses case studies to teach. I am a fan of case studies and feel they are a terrific way to learn. Todd Cohen (Management and Policy Approaches to Public Health) and Adrienne Chung (Social and Behavioral Approaches to Health) were both excellent instructors and always took time to provide meaningful, specific feedback on my projects and papers. They helped me improve my understanding of the subject material, and I’m grateful to have been in their classes.
What has been your favorite part of the experience at MPH@GW?
I really enjoy having the ability to listen to and review lectures at my convenience. In most classes, I print off the lectures and take notes on the side as I go. This aspect of GW’s interface and approach has helped me retain the material and makes reviewing coursework — whether for an exam or future use — very easy.
What are you hoping to accomplish upon graduation?
The field of pediatric hematology-oncology requires both good clinicians and clinical researchers in order to advance. The skills I am learning as an MPH student will allow me to become both. I understand disease pathology and its dynamic interaction with populations better now than ever before, and I am learning the skills needed to design clinical trials and studies. More than ever, I feel responsible for reaching out to those less fortunate and who need guidance in order to become healthy and prevent disease. I look forward to a wonderful career in the field of childhood cancer and blood disorders.
What else should we know about you?
I married my beautiful wife one and a half years ago and am the luckiest guy in the world. We live in Memphis, Tennessee, and can see the beautiful, mighty Mississippi River from our front door. We love taking runs and bike rides along the riverbank. I have competed in two full-length Ironman triathlons in Panama City Beach, Florida, and St. George, Utah, and plan to do another soon. I play the piano, organ and alto saxophone. My wife and I are active members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
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