“When I came for the interview, I felt right at home.”
After completing her master’s in public health from Emory University, Joanna Moore took a job as a statistician at the Institute for Surgical Research (ISR) at San Antonio’s Brooke Army Medical Center. At the time, she knew almost nothing about the military, but the daily contact she had with wounded warriors changed her life. It led her to enlist in the Army. “ISR was located close to the facilities where they received burn care,” she says. “The more I talked with them, the more I was inspired by them.”
As an environmental science officer, Moore was responsible for everything the Army felt came under the heading of preventive medicine. “A large part of my job was preventing the spread of infectious disease through better sanitation,” she says. “I conducted health inspections of food facilities, daycare centers, and waste management and water treatment plants.” During her deployment in Afghanistan in 2012 and 2013, she went from forward operating bases to combat outposts, making sure that all units had what they needed to stay healthy. She also started a training program for the Afghan National Army on proper food and water sanitation.
On returning to the United States, Moore redeployed to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, working in a clinic and conducting exercise and nutrition clinics in addition to health inspections. “Preventive medicine is critical,” she says, “but I began to feel that I wanted to do more. When someone was already sick, there was nothing I could do.” Moore began to consider a medical career.
In a casual conversation with her brother, who teaches biology at Virginia Commonwealth University, Moore learned about the existence of post baccalaureate pre-medical (PBPM) programs. Wondering if there was a PBPM program in Virginia, she googled it. UVA’s PBPM program was on the top of the page. She applied and was admitted.
Moore liked the program from the very start, feeling that SCPS admits people on the basis of their character and experience as well as their academic record. “When I came for the interview, I felt right at home,” she says. “Everyone was really interested in what I had to offer as a person.” She also feels that the School did an excellent job integrating her classmates into a cohesive cohort. “We’re friends, not competitors,” she says.
Right now, Moore has set her sights on a career in internal medicine, which would provide a pathway for her to pursue her long-term interest in infectious disease. However, the genetics unit of her biology course has recently struck a chord. “Numbers have always been interesting to me,” she says. “At this point, I’m very open to new ideas about my future.”