PHutures – 100 Alumni Voices »

Vanessa Burrowes

“The skills that you learn throughout your entire PhD are never wasted, and you never know when they’re going to come in handy. And it’s never time wasted to invest brain-width in learning a different skill, a different analysis.”

Bloomberg School of Public Health

International Health, PhD 2019

Corporate Health Program Researcher at IBM

Vanessa‘s Podcast Episode

In this episode, we discuss Vanessa’s approach to defining her post-doctoral career path in international health, her experience working as a corporate health program researcher at IBM during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond, and her advice for current Public Health PhD students preparing for their future careers.

Learn More About Vanessa‘s Story

Last year, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet my cousins and extended Vietnamese family on my mom’s side during the Tết New Year celebration in Los Angeles. By enjoying delicious food and participating in festival events and traditional ceremonies, I deepened my understanding of our familial journey to the US as refugees during the Vietnam War. Growing up, my mom had often told us of her challenges in chasing the elusive “American Dream” and how she took very specific steps to establish a life here. With my extended family now filling in details, I gained a more complete appreciation of the events and intentions behind these decisions. Though there is still a lot of healing to be done in the American Vietnamese community, both amongst refugees and the new generations establishing themselves in the US, it was a truly rewarding experience to begin having these conversations within my family.

As a bi-racial, first-generation American raised in Nebraska, my dad, originally from Northern Ireland, always emphasized the importance of being aware of international events and social movements beyond just those occurring within the United States. BBC and other global news channels were a constant presence in our house and helped to deepen my understanding of the interconnectedness of dynamics between countries. He also made sure I accompanied him on as many international trips as possible in my early childhood (photo showing me, my uncle, and my dad in Northern Ireland at age 4). When I accepted my first global health research position in Zambia, my dad simply replied, “Go for it!” himself having completed a solo trip across several continents in his early adulthood. It was this enthusiastic encouragement to learn about, listen to, and travel throughout the broader world that led me to my career in global health.