Student Perspectives

Marissa Dixon

Marissa Dixon

IHometown: Fort Washington, MD

Undergraduate Degree: B.S. in Biology from University of Maryland, Eastern Shore

Areas of Interest: community-based research that benefits the health of vulnerable children and those who care for them, the development of public health programs for disadvantaged populations, measurement and elimination of health disparities.

Background Information

I grew up in Fort Washington, Maryland; a suburb located about fifteen minutes from both Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia.  I am the only child of two wonderful parents: my mother worked for NIH and my father is a retired schoolteacher and administrator.  They encouraged my early interest in science and aided me in enrolling in programs to add to my knowledge and skills.  They also recognized my love for people and supported my volunteering activities with the Native American youth and early childhood education programs in my area. I attended Gwynn Park High School, a science and technology magnet school, in Brandywine Maryland.  Next, I attended the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, where I graduated with a B.S. in Honors Biology.  I moved to Rochester in 2005 to begin a Ph.D. program in Neuroscience.  I took a detour and decided to work as a research coordinator on clinical trials for those with Cystic Fibrosis.  It was during that time that I found the MPH program at the University of Rochester and knew it was the perfect way to combine my love for people and health sciences.

Why did you choose The University of Rochester Medical Center?

The University of Rochester Medical Center is a health epicenter in the Rochester community.  It is respected and well received because of its exceptional care of patients and its outreach efforts in the community.  I wanted to be a part of an entity that was working diligently to improve the life of all those in the area and possessed updated and cutting edge research opportunities. 

Tell us about your program

The Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Rochester Medical Center houses the MPH program.  The MPH program is comprised of a set of faculty that works tirelessly to train students to become leaders in public health arena.  They focus on instruction to develop knowledge and skills to serve populations experiencing a plethora of health concerns.  Students in the program benefit from strong and supportive leadership complete with exemplary coordination.  Students can chose to specialize their program of study in three tracks: social and behavioral, epidemiology, health services research, or remain a generalist. 

What are your career aspirations?

After a number of years of over-planning my future I have realized that sometimes the best and most satisfying opportunities are those that you cannot foresee years ahead.  However, I believe continuing my education through a completion of a Ph.D. would strengthen my ability to conduct community research.  I also would like to use my newly acquired skills in the field, perhaps working for a local non-for-profit or a health department.

What are some of the things you have learned since you came to Rochester?

I am proud to say that the MPH program at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry has taught me more than just information, but has also given me perspective about the future of public health and where I could fit in.  I cannot express how supported and equipped I feel.  This is truly a comprehensive program that goes beyond arming you with knowledge and skills- the MPH program helps you identify and enhance your abilities!

Any advice for prospective students?

START CONNECTING and VOLUNTEERING with the Department of Public Health Sciences!  We have a vast selection of opportunities that will give you experience and benefit the department and those it serves.

Prospective students can contact Marissa at:


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Name: Chandni Sud

Hometown: Rochester, NY

Undergraduate Degree: B.S. in Biological Sciences and B.S. in Business Administration from University at Buffalo.

Graduate Degree: Masters in Public Health

Areas of Interest: Geriatrics: clinical process improvement in long-term care settings, management of depression in elder adults, and reduction of unpaid caregiver burden of individuals diagnosed with cognitive impairment.

Background Information

I was born and raised in Rochester, NY. I graduated from Pittsford Mendon High School and went to the University at Buffalo to obtain a B.S. in Biological Sciences and Business Administration.  I have one younger sister who is 9 years old and excited to start in 4th grade. My family owns an Indian restaurant and grocery store called India House in Rochester. A recent addition was the opening of Spice Bazaar, an Indian grocery store located on Jefferson Road also in Rochester.

In H.S., I played soccer and field hockey with the school team and was actively involved in student council and a business club called DECA. During my senior year at UB, I was the president of the Indian Student Association and organized many large events including Muqabla, an intercollegiate dance competition.  I am currently the Information Analyst on the project team of the Greater Rochester Nursing Home Quality Consortium, a 3 year training grant to implement Lean Six Sigma in rural and underserved nursing homes to improve quality and efficiency.  In the near future, I would like to attend medical school specializing in Geriatrics.

Why did you choose The University of Rochester Medical Center?

I initially was interested in the University of Rochester Medical Center because growing up in Rochester I always saw how active the university was with the community. In addition, small class sizes and distinguished faculty in the Department of Public Health Sciences proved that I would receive a quality education that was individualized to my needs. Lastly, the ample opportunities for research and participating in public health projects also drew me towards choosing the URMC.

Tell us about your program

I am a Masters in Public Health student at the University of Rochester Medical Center – Department of Public Health Sciences. I chose the generalist path in order to learn about the multiple aspects of public health. This program gives you the tools and hands-on experience in order to have a strong background in research design and methods. 

What are your career aspirations?

After obtaining my M.P.H. I would like to attend medical school and pursue a career in Geriatrics. I believe that having a Masters in Public Health will give me a different perspective on our healthcare system and being on front lines as a physician will allow me to make the greatest impact. I would love to continue my clinical career while remaining in academia through different research opportunities in improving the quality of care for elder adults.

What are some of the things you have learned since you came to Rochester?

I’ve learned the value of being actively involved in your classes through the discussions and seminars and how to ask questions and to become familiar with the amazing faculty and their specialties. Also, I have learned how to use both qualitative and quantitative research methods to answer specific questions.

Any advice for prospective students?

Get involved! Clubs, seminars, grand rounds, anything you can do to meet your peers and network with different faculty.  Make sure your professors and department leaders know you, your interests, and career aspirations so they can help you reach your goals.

Prospective students may contact Chandni at:



Lydia FernandezName: Lydia Fernandez

Hometown: Clifton Springs, NY

Undergraduate Degree: B.S. in Communications, Cornell University

Graduate Degree: MPH, generalist, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry

Areas of Interest: Health literacy, communications and education; improving access to health care.


Background Information

(This would include where did you grow up, how many siblings do you have, where did you go to high school, did you play any sports, were you in any extracurricular activities, etc.)

I grew up in a small town about an hour east of Rochester, and with the exception of a period in second grade when I wanted to be a deep-sea diver, I had always dreamed of being a writer. I geared my activities and studies toward that goal and eventually became a journalist. Over the years, I have worked in radio, print and online, for mainstream media, a small magazine and a nonprofit news service. I have primarily focused on lifestyles and community news, although I have also written about Native American and national security issues.

Through it all, I discovered that what I find most compelling are stories about health – the ways people understand their personal health, how they make decisions about their own care and that of their family, and how access to care has such influence over an individual’s life. Listening to people I interview talk about their health care experiences and their concerns made me realize how essential good health information is. That has served as my impetus to pursue a master’s degree in public health.

And Rochester is a fantastic place for such work. I have lived in the city for 10 years and love it – winter and all.

Why did you choose The University of Rochester Medical Center?

I chose URMC because its faculty and programs have a strong reputation. Also, having done my undergraduate work at a very large university, I found the relatively small Master of Public Health (MPH) program appealing. You get to know your peers and professors in a different way and find opportunities for extracurricular work more easily. As a very non-traditional student, I also found the Department of Public Health Sciences quite welcoming.

Tell us about your program

The MPH program offers a solid overview of issues in public health, as well as opportunities to delve more deeply. Students can choose from specialized tracks in epidemiology, Social and Behavioral Sciences, and health services research, or they can remain generalists. The program is rigorous and strongly emphasizes research skills.

The MPH program is challenging and exciting. As a part-time student, I have found the demands of the coursework manageable. Although I came into the program without a typical medical or scientific background, I have found the faculty very accessible and willing to help me, and I feel confident that I will graduate from the program well prepared for a career in public health.

What are your career aspirations?

Public health is a second career for me. Although my current career allows me to address health issues through the media, being a journalist means I have to walk a fine line between informing and advocating. I now want to take a more direct role in promoting health in the community. As I finish my program, I envision working for a health advocacy organization, hospital or government agency.

What are some of the things you have learned since you came to Rochester?

Through my coursework, I have developed much stronger skills for evaluating research findings and analyzing data. That has helped me not only become a better translator of that information in my work as a journalist, but it has also helped me learn to frame more scientific questions and approaches to finding answers about community health issues.

Any advice for prospective students?

Find ways to get involved both on campus and off.  Network with fellow students and faculty and join some of the professional organizations with local chapters. Look for volunteer opportunities in the community as well. Rochester has a very active network of nonprofit groups and there is bound to be one that will suit your interests and advance your professional goals.

Prospective students may contact Lydia at:


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