When it comes to issues of public health, Jake Coldiron has a unique ability to trace connections across multiple areas of study. The Honors College senior will graduate this December with a degree in public health, plus minors in math and sociology.
With a long-term interest in a career in population health research, Coldiron planned his undergraduate coursework purposefully. He knew that taking math and sociology courses, like graduate-level biostatistics, would help him to gain niche insight into the ways different populations exist, how they can be analyzed and how their health concerns can be addressed.
He also knew that adding practical experience in public health would be invaluable. As an undergraduate, Coldiron joined Georgia State’s Student Emergency Response Team (SERT), a collaboration between the School of Public Health and the Division of Student Success that was formed in the fall of 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
As a SERT ambassador, Coldiron worked on several student-centered public health campaigns, which included videos and social media messaging. Campaigns addressed topics like the importance of wearing face masks to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“That,” Coldiron said of SERT’s efforts, “really demonstrated how a public health intervention was put together and how it was implemented. You can have all these case studies, and you can create the most wonderful presentation, but it might not click. There’s a big difference between intellectually knowing something and cognitively understanding it.”
Coldiron has always been interested in infectious diseases. As he progressed in Georgia State’s public health program, he honed his focus to global health diplomacy and perinatal infection. The former focuses not just on individual cases of disease but also on “upstream factors” that may contribute to a widespread issue. The latter addresses diseases that can be passed down from mothers to their children, threatening life expectancy.
Coldiron believes the implications of each are critical.
“Leveraging international relationships and strategic partnerships between governmental and non-governmental agencies can lead to policy and change on the local level to improve the health of the whole worldwide community,” he explained.
"With perinatal infection, it’s not just an issue at the intersection of maternal and child health. You can see the deep-seated impact it can have on society or a nation at large. If you lose an individual who could have gone on to change the world to an easily preventable disease, then they’re no longer able to do that.”
With a broad understanding of the fields that shape population health research and hands-on experience running public health campaigns, Coldiron is ready for his next chapter. He’s applying to graduate schools in pursuit of a Master of Science in Biostatistics — a field he’s drawn to because it can be used to unveil population health trends, leading to a better understanding of diseases and the creation of predictive models to study and improve intervention strategies.
Ultimately, Coldiron hopes to enter a medical scientist training program that will allow him to earn an M.D. and a Ph.D. concurrently.
He’s certainly no stranger to the challenge of interdisciplinary work. In fact, it’s what drives him.
“I believe in a very comprehensive approach to education. Even if I don’t go on to eventually practice medicine, I would like to effectively know what I’m fighting against,” he said.