Public Health Buckeyes: Angie Hetrick

Meet epidemiology PhD student Angie Hetrick

December 8, 2020
PhD student Angie Hetrick

Each month, the College of Public Health is shining a spotlight on one of its students. For December’s feature, meet Angie Hetrick, a third-year PhD student in the Division of Epidemiology. After earning an associate degree from Lakeland Community College and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from North Carolina State University, Hetrick served in the Peace Corps in Ghana, where she developed a passion for epidemiology that eventually led her to Ohio State.

Why did you decide to pursue public health and epidemiology?

I decided to pursue public health and epidemiology while serving in the Peace Corps in Ghana. The unnecessary deaths and sickness due to preventable diseases, such as malaria and HIV, in my community angered me deeply. I first learned about epidemiologic methods in the middle of my service during a conference on interventions for malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, which piqued my curiosity.

I’ve always enjoyed mathematics — my mind works best on a quantitative level, identifying patterns. Epidemiology is the perfect field for me because I can detect health patterns, describe disease distribution and contribute to public health efforts.

Can you tell us about your research?

My dissertation research is focused on the polysubstance use of opioids and stimulants and infectious diseases, particularly hepatitis C (HCV) and HIV in rural communities. Over 80% of participants in a preliminary study in rural Ohio counties reported using multiple substances. The impact of this substance use on seeking HCV testing and treatment completion is not well understood; I hope to identify gaps in HCV care to eventually improve care and reduce prevalence.

I also get to take part in other research, such as a study on alcohol abstinence stigma among HIV patients in Thai Nguyen, Vietnam, which I published with my advisor Kathryn Lancaster, University of North Carolina professor Vivian Go and our collaborators.

What excites you the most about your research?

I get excited by developing questions and determining how best to solve them using both established and new epidemiologic methods, though I’m still learning how to take a step back and confirm that the research question is pertinent and will support positive public health changes.

Are you engaged in any other academic/professional endeavors?

I am the treasurer of the Public Health Graduate Student Association, which serves as a platform to connect graduate students within the College of Public Health. It’s been challenging to gather during the pandemic, but we are trying to grow our membership, so please join us! https://u.osu.edu/phgsa/

What have been your most enriching experiences at Ohio State?

Because of my education here, I’ve been able to conduct in-depth interviews with people who inject drugs, law enforcement officials and community members about the perceptions of substance use disorders and the life-saving medication naloxone. Perspectives from people who inject drugs clarified the absolute need for research and resources to reduce overdoses and remove stigmas associated with substance use. These interviews also confirmed that people who use drugs have been through traumatic experiences and deserve compassion and support.

What do you hope for the future of public health?

My hope for the future of public health is that local and federal policies are corrected and designed with evidence-based science and research that considers all aspects of public health and medicine. Public health is for all people, yet policies such as barriers to affordable housing and possession laws are put into place that contribute to inequities in education, nutrition and quality of life.

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About The Ohio State University College of Public Health

The Ohio State University College of Public Health is a leader in educating students, creating new knowledge through research, and improving the livelihoods and well-being of people in Ohio and beyond.  The College's divisions include biostatistics, environmental health sciences, epidemiology, health behavior and health promotion, and health services management and policy.   It is ranked 19th among all colleges of public health in the U.S. by U.S. News and World Report, and also includes the top 7-ranked MHA degree program.  The College provides leadership and expertise for Ohio and the world through its Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Evaluation Studies (HOPES) and Center for Public Health Practice (CPHP).