Jennifer Simmons (2004-2005)
I started my health career as a registered nurse in Belize, working in maternal and child health. Having exhausted the educational opportunities in my natal land, I emigrated to the U.S. in 1990 and obtained an undergraduate degree in nursing. I very quickly recognized the limitations of the nursing profession in impacting large population groups. Consequently, I diverted my educational and professional goals to public health and obtained an MPH in epidemiology from the University of South Florida. I continue to practice the nursing profession, working with high-risk neonates in a tertiary health care setting. This experience has presented ample opportunities for me to assess the determinants of fertility and mortality at the individual level within the maternal and child health population.
Initially interested in infectious disease epidemiology, I have narrowed my scope to the expression of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Central America and the Caribbean, with specific emphasis on Belize. The emergence of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in this region is a severe public health threat and has the potential to destabilize population structures and reverse demographic accomplishments. Population studies presented itself as a natural progression for my educational journey as it clearly illuminated the relational links between the epidemiology of the HIV epidemic and its demographic implications. The nations of Central America and the Caribbean have very youthful populations; this reality coupled with the primarily heterosexual transmission of HIV in the region has led me to focus my interests on the evolution of the epidemic amongst youths and young adults.
I have previously interned with the Pan American Health Organization in Belize, where I assisted in assessing the impact of the epidemic on productivity and its attendant economical costs to the country. Furthermore, I have worked as a Programme Manager, in a Community Based Organization, managing HIV health education interventions for high-risk youths in Los Angeles County.
My professional aspirations involve serving the people of Belize in managing and reducing the spread of HIV. Belize is especially vulnerable to this epidemic in that it has a small population and a fairly high prevalence compared to its neighbours. The Bixby fellowship is providing me with access to pertinent demographic skills and knowledge that are applicable to confronting the situation in Belize and the surrounding regions.