Astou Coly (Fellow 2003-2005)
I am a second year doctoral student in the department of Epidemiology at the UCLA School of Public Health. I was born and raised in Senegal and came to the United States after high-school to pursue higher education. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from Georgia State University and working in a neurobiological laboratory, it became clear to me that my calling was elsewhere. I was interested in participating in social change by informing the health policy development process with high-quality research. HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases epidemiology are my primary research interests because of their global social impact. Specifically, I am interested in the feminization of STD epidemics in African countries. Currently, I am contemplating studying the impact of HIV on the demographic and health patterns of high-risk women in sub-Saharan Africa.
After obtaining my MPH with a concentration in epidemiology from UCLA School of Public Health in 2001, I worked as a data analyst for Dr. Donald Morisky in the Department of Community Health Sciences. In that capacity, I was involved in a HIV prevention study among commercial sex workers in the Philippines, as well as, another health project studying adolescent health behaviors. Particularly, I was able to examine the relationship between sexual activity and selected health behaviors among adolescent immigrants living in the United States. Previously, in the summer of 2000, I worked with the HIV National Prevention Program in Dakar, Senegal. I participated in a research project that explored the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, and the risk factors associated with both HIV and syphilis among Senegalese inmates. These work experiences not only increased my research skills but also deepened my interest in reproductive health.
As a Bixby fellow, I have taken classes in demographic theories and methods. As a result of my extensive coursework, I have been able to expand my knowledge of health issues beyond public health. At the completion of my doctoral studies, I would like to pursue a career with an international health organization focusing on HIV/AIDS and sexual health in sub-Saharan Africa. Along with research, I am fascinated by the possibility of teaching at the university level. I plan not only to teach and to conduct research, but also ensure that relevant findings are disseminated to aid advocacy for social and political change.