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By Galilee Ambellu

Katie Huber is a double Tar Heel, who currently works as a policy analyst at the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy. During her undergraduate career, Katie double majored in Interdisciplinary Studies and Anthropology. In an attempt to gain greater exposure to the field of public health, Katie pursued an MPH in Health Behavior shortly after graduation.

Katie’s pre-health journey was reminiscent of many others at UNC. It was the classic case of an eager first-year biology student, falling in love with the health humanities. Whether it is an honors first-year seminar (FYS), a gateway course for the Medicine, Literature, and Culture minor, or an anthropology requirement, there always seems to be an introductory class that dramatically shifts a first-year’s perception of healthcare. For Katie, it was BIOL 62H with Dr. Mark Peifer. For me, it was ENGL 71H with Dr. Kym Weed. And for many others it was either ENGL 57H with Dr. Matthew Taylor or ENGL 268H with Dr. Jane Thraikill.

However, this euphoric experience of studying one’s passions in an interdivisional light is typically accompanied by a period of anxiety. Students are often reminded that their major does not define their career outlooks, yet they still feel pressured to take a conventional approach to their education. They often wonder if majoring in English with a Concentration in Science, Medicine, and Literature, Medical Anthropology, or Interdisciplinary Studies (IDST) would give them an upper hand in the job market. Or if their employers would question the applicability of these degrees. HHIVE alum Katie Huber offers insight on how she was able to overcome the fear of job insecurity.

Over time Katie started to feel less fulfilled by the biology labs and courses that she was enrolled in. Katie had a general interest in STEM but began herself gravitating towards the HHIVE Lab more often than not. As her relationships with her health humanities professors began to strengthen, she knew that it was time to forge a new path in the fields of Anthropology and IDST. After reflecting on her undergraduate experience, Katie now believes that “if you [as a student] are able to do something that you’re really passionate about and heavily involved in, then that is something your employers should hear about.” She encourages students to major in and apply for jobs that cater to their interests, for their employer will be able to tell where their hearts lie during the interview process.

Switching majors symbolized Huber’s commitment to a continual process of unlearning and resocialization. Katie revealed that it took time to unlearn her former linear pre-health mindset. With time and growth, she was able to challenge the popular belief that “quantitative data is more rigorous and significant than qualitative data.” Although quantitative data allows us to highlight the efficacy of treatment plans or outline the prevalence of certain diseases, disorders, and disparities, qualitative information enhances numerical data. It allows us to understand the environmental factors that influence these statistics.

Furthermore, public health is a field centered around disease prevention and health promotion. An effective way to achieve these foundational goals is through direct patient interaction and reflective listening. Qualitative data is an additive resource, for it bridges the gap between numbers and the human experience. Majoring in fields such as English and Anthropology enhances one’s verbal and written communication skills. Demonstrating proficiencies in these literary competencies makes for better health care providers and policy analysts. Katie states that her job requires a great deal of writing and approaching contemporary issues from an intersectional lens. Her involvement in HHIVE has equipped her with the technical skills needed to flourish at her job. This further proves that engaging with qualitative interviews, studying patients’ explanatory models, and exposing oneself to narrative medicine can actually advance one’s career, instead of hindering it.

Katie truly embodies the all too familiar pre-health experience at UNC. She majored in Anthropology before Medical Anthropology and Interdisciplinary Studies became popular secondary majors at UNC. Nowadays, students are able to merge their clinical and qualitative interests through double majoring in both the hard sciences and the health humanities. Some have also decided to explore the field of public health, by pursuing a BSPH and/or MPH from UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health. The HHIVE lab serves as a creative furnace that refines students’ technical skills while igniting their passion for the health humanities. Katie was one of the first to embark on the honors FYS to HHIVE to Gillings pipeline; a path that is now cherished by many at UNC.

Headshot of Galilee AmbelluGalilee Ambellu is a rising junior majoring in Health Policy and Management and considering a minor in Medicine, Literature, and Culture. HHIVE has allowed her to merge her love of literature with her passion for health equity and social justice. Galilee’s exposure to the health humanities has allowed her to consider factors, such as the social authority of physicians and patient explanatory models while studying preventative medicine. Her academic interests lie in narrative medicine, ethnographic research, and public health. In the future, Galilee hopes to become a health behavior researcher, where she will be able to collect qualitative data on patients’ perceived severity and susceptibility to illness. She is interested in learning more about how varying environmental contexts influence patients’ views on health. Her ultimate goal is to increase the accessibility and affordability of care while rebuilding patients’ trust in the healthcare system.

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