How One Graduate Student Volunteered in Public Health

Oct. 10, 2019

Volunteer with ASM’s Young Ambassador Program to build your skills and network with like-minded people. You can find a map of all of ASM’s Ambassadors or apply to be an ASM Young Ambassador. The next application cycle is expected to begin in late 2021.

Not only do volunteer experiences help you gain skills that you can use in other fields, they can also make you stand out from the rest of the candidates during an interview. As a job candidate, you are a collection of your experiences, whether it’s paid or on a volunteer basis. As you prepare for your career, think of ways to volunteer both professionally and personally.

In this article, we interview Dr. Sally Baker from the Department of Medicine at the University of Washington about her career and how her volunteer efforts shaped her career aspirations.

Tell Us About You: When and How Did Your Passion for Science Start?

I initially became interested in public health and infectious diseases during the SARS outbreak in the early 2000s. The news and media featured many prominent people in the fields of public health, scientific research, and medicine - all who contributed their expertise to combating this outbreak. I found these leaders to be inspiring and realized that working in this field could have the potential to improve the life and health of people on a global scale.

What Did You Study in College?

I majored in Public Health and French. I then did a Master’s degree in Control of Infectious Disease and went on to complete a MD/Ph.D. in Microbiology & Immunology.

How Did You Get Into Your Current Position?

A combination of education, leadership positions, and excellent mentoring all contributed to my ability to pursue residency and eventually, a fellowship. I am currently an internal medicine resident and plan to pursue an infectious disease fellowship as a physician-scientist.

What Is Your Research About?

My research focuses on pulmonary mucosal immunology, bacterial host-pathogen interactions, and the translation of this knowledge into vaccine development for opportunistic pulmonary pathogens.

What Do You Like to Do in Your Free Time?

I enjoy taking part in extracurricular activities that are both within my field and outside of it. Both the ASM Young Ambassador program and working as a Homeless Hospital Liaison as a part of the New Orleans Street Medicine program, have shaped my career choices in unique ways and led me towards my career choice. Additionally, I love to read historical fiction, cook and bake for my friends and family, and exercise as much as possible!

Why Did You Get Involved in ASM?

A Pop-Up Outbreak Exhibit at Tulane University.
A Pop-Up Outbreak Exhibit at Tulane University.

I wanted to get involved in ASM because I believe that professional organizations have incredible resources aimed at early career development. This has certainly been the case for me during my time as an ASM Young Ambassador. In collaboration with my university, ASM, and the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, I organized a pop-up exhibit at a local gallery titled Outbreak: Epidemics in a Connected World. This exhibit highlighted local and international efforts over the last 200 years to combat epidemics including Yellow Fever, Hansen's Disease, and Ebola.

Do You Think Volunteering with ASM Gave You a Competitive Advantage in Taking Your Career to the Next Level?

Volunteering with ASM has connected me with scientists and physicians in my field from across many cities and countries. I've had the opportunity to attend the ASM conference for several years, where I've presented my scientific research and gained insightful feedback.

If You Would Share Any Advice to Current Students Looking to Stand Out in Their CV/resume, What Would You Say?

Choose to volunteer for organizations that mean something to you professionally and personally, so that you can be more deeply involved. Take advantage of the many opportunities available within organizations like ASM, especially mentorship opportunities. Scientists who are further along in their career always want to help!

Author: ASM Careers

ASM Careers
How can you make the challenges of a microbiology career just a bit less stressful? One way: Reach out to colleagues for advice, support and inspiration. ASM Careers helps you do just that - virtually!