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05/04/2018

No Boundaries for Alumnus Wayne Lawrence in Life-Saving Research

Wayne Lawrence Alumni Profile

Sometimes an internship is not what you hoped for. You study the coursework, but then the fieldwork is nothing like you expected. You may even question your career path. For Wayne Lawrence A’10, ’13, this was his reality. After an eye-opening summer internship in a path he no longer wanted, Lawrence sought out guidance from the University’s Office of Career Services. With the help of Linda Schultz, associate director of career development and education, he was introduced to the field of public health and secured an internship at the Orange County Department of Health in Newburgh, NY.

“This internship provided me first-hand experience working in medically underserved populations and exposed me to the impact socioeconomic status has on health outcome,” Lawrence says.  “It was my introduction to epidemiology, and I immediately knew I wanted to pursue it after I graduated.”

Lawrence recalls the smile on Schultz’s face when she saw how excited he was about pursuing a graduate degree in public health. They continued to meet several times over the following semester, and she helped him prepare his personal statement for admission applications. 

After finishing his bachelor’s degree at UHart’s College of Education, Nursing and Health Professions, Lawrence traveled with a purpose. He researched racial disparities in prostate cancer survival in rural Georgia while pursuing his master’s degree in public health at Georgia Southern University. He spent time in Ghana, where he helped develop the first electronic medical records system at one of the country’s largest hospitals. Lawrence then landed a fellowship at the Harvard University School of Public Health and traveled to both Australia and New Zealand to examine the health inequities among indigenous populations. 

Today, Lawrence is pursuing a Doctor of Public Health in Epidemiology at the University at Albany’s School of Public Health. His current research focuses on the effects of climatic change on cardiovascular health and the influence Type 2 diabetes has on breast cancer reoccurrence and mortality, as well as the modifying effect of antidiabetic medication on long-term survival. 

“I focus on where biological susceptibility and disparities in use of health services intersect, to identify vulnerable populations and develop effective approaches to disease prevention.” 

Lawrence is also a graduate research assistant for the New York Department of Health, working specifically in the Bureau of Community Heath and Chronic Disease Prevention, as well as the New York State Asthma Control Program. His next project, which was released in April 2018, explores the home environmental exposures on respiratory health among school-age children in Romania. Lawrence is working closely with faculty of the Cluj School of Public Health at the Babeş-Bolyai University in Romania. 

Lawrence looks back at his collegiate experience and reflects on how welcoming Hillyer College was to him and his peers. He admired the open-door policy that the faculty have, and personally recognizes Paula Alderette, assistant professor of psychology at Hillyer College, for helping to expand his interest in current events and identifying vulnerable populations.

“Choosing to attend Hillyer College was one of the best decisions I made,” Lawrence says. “Hillyer helps students during the difficult transition from high school to college. It is great at fostering a sense of community and belonging for first-year students. To this day, I remain in communication with my classmates from Hillyer, and we have yet to stop our tradition of celebrating each other’s accomplishments.”