Class of 2021: Public Health major gains valuable experience in field

Emily Watson at Delta

Class of 2021: Public Health major gains valuable experience in field

Emily Watson

A s a public health major, Emily Watson of Newnan, Georgia, has gained first-hand experience in the field. She recently interned with Delta Air Lines, doing research and evaluating pathogen risk in several areas.

“This career path really drew me in,” she said. “It amazed me how many career opportunities are available such as biostatistics, epidemiology, environmental health, community health, disaster management and many more.” 

Emily Watson at Delta Air Lines.
Emily Watson at Delta Air Lines.

During her internship, Watson’s research project was to evaluate Delta Air Lines’ pathogen risk in its travel ribbon—the essential stages of the overall travel experience including inspiration, planning, booking, purchase, pre-trip, departure, inflight and post trip—to provide the Global Clean Team with research and results that identifies threats of viruses, bacteria and other related illnesses that customers and employees are most vulnerable to. The team also evaluated the effectiveness of Delta’s cleaning protocols against those threats. 

Watson also worked with the battery disposal project, where 275 airports were sent a survey to indicate the number of new batteries they had in inventory, how many they have disposed of and how many they replaced. Her role was to tally the responses to determine if she needed to follow-up with the airport managers on her research. She also sent daily battery updates to the leaders and stakeholders of the project.

“This project was extremely important, because the batteries being used were recalled, which brought safety concerns,” Watson said. “This project was a challenge, because many of the airport managers I communicated with were from international airports. The language barrier made it difficult to understand them. This taught me patience and how to work with others who have different cultural backgrounds.” 

“I’m particularly interested in how disasters affect health outcomes and the spread of infectious or chronic diseases. This is important to me, because it’s critical to predict the health impacts of future disasters and emergencies. By working to prevent illnesses, deaths and injuries, I’ll contribute to saving lives and future mitigation strategies.”
– Emily Watson

Her role with the on-board lavatory project, was to research innovative ways to improve customers’ first impressions of the lavatory units on aircrafts.

“This taught me how to think creatively when researching and to consider how people would react to it,” said Watson.

The project team evaluated everyone’s ideas to determine how realistic they for implementation and the impact it would have on customers’ first impressions. 

“I’ve enjoyed establishing professional connections and relationships the most out of these experiences,” said Watson.  “Having these connections will be extremely beneficial as I enter the career field.”

She also enjoyed learning something new every day, ranging from how to create process maps to how all areas in the airport are to be kept cleaned.

Dr. Ernie Kaninjing, professor for Global Health, Community Health and a Public Health Internship course, helped make her internships possible. In doing so, he made a significant impact on her academic and personal experience at Georgia College. His class opened up the window of career possibilities for Watson.

“Because of Dr. Kaninjing’s consistent support, I’ve found my own passion for public health,” she said. “He believes in his students and pushes them to be the best they can be.”

Watson was also a member of the Public Health Student Organization (PHSO), which helped develop her passion for public health. She enjoyed seeing students come together to organize awareness events, health panels and volunteer opportunities. Most of these events involved educating individuals on health topics, which allowed her to teach people about many public health issues she’s passionate about.

“Being a part of the PHSO has made me even more excited to enter the epidemiology field, as I will be surrounded by professionals who are also passionate about public health,” Watson said. “This organization embodies hard work, dedication and enthusiasm—qualities I will bring into my future career.” 

Emily Watson
Emily Watson

As a member of Kappa Delta Sorority, Watson grew to be more confident and has made lifelong friends.

“This group of women pushed me to be the best version of myself and taught me the true meaning of friendship,” Watson said. “I’ve grown into a better friend, sister and woman because of this sisterhood, and I am forever thankful for their support.”

Belonging to these organizations made her career ready, as well.

“Kappa Delta provided me with numerous opportunities ranging from volunteer, leadership and community-involvement experiences,” Watson said. “Because of these experiences, I’ve learned the importance of teamwork and selflessness, which I will carry with me as I enter the career field.”

Watson will pursue her Masters of Public Health in epidemiology at the University of Georgia this fall. She plans to study infectious epidemiology, while gaining research experience in disaster epidemiology. And, she hopes to pursue a career in disaster epidemiology.

Watson plans to help improve the population’s overall quality of life by preparing for and researching the public health impacts of disasters.

“I’m particularly interested in how disasters affect health outcomes and the spread of infectious or chronic diseases,” she said. “This is important to me, because it’s critical to predict the health impacts of future disasters and emergencies. By working to prevent illnesses, deaths and injuries, I’ll contribute to saving lives and future mitigation strategies.”