We’re thrilled to announce that Annalise Schoonmaker has recently joined our team as a Program Associate. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and is currently pursuing a M.S. in Public Health Microbiology and Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. For the past 2.5 years, she was working in Doha, Qatar as a full-time teaching assistant for pre-medical education at Weill Cornell Medicine. With her background in international science education and interest in science diplomacy, she will be supporting our Health Security Futures Fellowship cohorts.
Ever since I read The Hot Zone by Richard Preston in high school about an Ebola outbreak in the Washington, D.C. area, I have been interested in emerging infectious diseases. It was fascinating to me how something so small had the potential to cause so much harm if it was not checked. As an undergraduate at Cornell University, I studied biology and took courses that introduced me to the intersections of science and policy. During one summer, I also did research on Rift Valley fever virus at the National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases at George Mason University. This experience showed me the complexity of these diseases and that biosecurity includes protecting not only the health of humans, but also our food production, such as livestock and crops.
I spent the last two-and-half years working at Weill Cornell Medicine in Doha, Qatar as a full-time pre-medical teaching assistant teaching students from Qatar, Pakistan, India, Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Oman, Jordan, and many other countries. Living in another culture has helped shape my understanding of how public health is perceived and how one size does not fit all in finding solutions to these issues. Global health security interventions need to be tailored to different cultures and populations for them to be most effective. This experience also sparked my interest in disease surveillance during natural and man-made disasters, particularly with vulnerable populations such as refugees as I personally made friends who were affected.
I believe that health security is a global problem that requires global collaborations. What captures it well for me is a quote from a recent PBS documentary, Spillover – Zika, Ebola, and Beyond: “Pathogens don’t know borders.” I am very excited to join HSP in its mission to empower those locally to improve and strengthen health security in their communities.