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Growing up, College of Public Health (CPH) alumna Charlene Siza, DVM, MPH, DACVPM, (‘16) always wanted to be a veterinarian.

An avid reader, she had read the book “Outbreak” by Robin Cook, which deals with a fictional Ebola outbreak in the United States and the subsequent public health response to it. While Charlene went to veterinary school, public health was always in her mind.  

During veterinary school, Charlene was exposed to many public health veterinarians, due to being close to Atlanta, where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is headquartered. This is when her career focus began to evolve.

“Seeing all these great examples of public health careers for veterinarians really shifted my focus from private practice to the public health realm,” Charlene says. “I still practiced for a year in small animal medicine just to know that I wouldn’t regret the transition, but that further cemented my career path in public health.”  

Charlene currently works at the CDC as an epidemiologist on the prevention team for the International Infection Control Program, Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion. Her work focuses on international infection prevention and antimicrobial resistance.  

“The global threat of resistant organisms is very real and can have serious implications on our health,” she says. “I get to work with various partners, including hospitals, to really help guide the work to identify, respond, and prevent or contain the spread of these organisms.”  

Charlene says she loves being able to work on a team that is knowledgeable and passionate about health care and preventing infection. While she’s still new to her role, she has vast experience from her previous work at the CDC in international emergency response to infectious diseases such as Ebola and polio.  

“I love learning how I can apply my knowledge of these large community outbreaks to processes within specific health care facilities,” she says.  

When it came time to look for public health programs, the University of Kentucky College of Public Health was on her short list, as she had lived in Kentucky during high school. Another plus was being close to her sister, who was attending UK’s medical school at the time.  

But the biggest factor was the description, focus, and learning opportunities found in the Master of Public Health (MPH) program and the Global Health Certificate offered by CPH, confirming her passion of building healthier communities in Kentucky and the world.  

Charlene says what she learned at UK gave her a great foundation to grow her career.  

“One course in geographic information systems really ignited my love for making maps,” she says. “That gave me a valuable skill that I have been able to use for my work, including being able to teach foreign ministry of health workers how to use the technology in their outbreak responses. I also really enjoyed being able do an international internship for the global health certificate. This gave me my first genuine experience in clinics abroad, which is the basis of my work now.”  

For those looking at public health, Charlene’s advice is to remember that the field of public health is vast and it’s important to think creatively.  

“Personally, just seeing how veterinarians are incorporated into so many subject areas in public health was a revelation,” she says. “It showed me that you can apply your degree and experience in ways you may not have considered before.”  

She also says not to forget about the whole picture of your life when thinking about your career, as there’s a balance between work and personal life.  

“Some people love to focus more on work, others need a stronger home life,” Charlene says. “Don’t find yourself 10 years into a career and regret not having devoted more time to something you love and that fulfills you. Take the time now to understand what balance you want. 

“It may change over time, so make it a point to reassess as you go," Charlene adds.

To help achieve that work–life balance, Charlene serves at her local church, specifically in nursery and childcare. She also loves construction and volunteers most weekends as a skilled supervisor with Habitat for Humanity, building houses for people in the community.  

“I think this really brings fulfillment at a personal level, since you are directly seeing the impact to the individual you are helping,” she says.  

To learn more about the College of Public Health’s programs, people, and passion for public health, visit us at