Olivia Sullivan

Olivia Sullivan

Maternal & Child Health MPH

Olivia Sullivan is a recent graduate of the Maternal & Child Health MPH degree program here at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. With minors in both Epidemiology & Community Health and Biostatistics, Olivia has a broad research background in the areas of gender and sexual minority health. Learn more about Olivia’s experience at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health by reading her responses to the questions below.

Where did you attend undergrad and what was your degree?
[Olivia] I first attended St. Olaf and I originally wanted to be an opera singer. I graduated from St. Olaf with a double major in Chinese and Biology and a minor in Educational Studies. I was awarded a Fulbright Research grant, which fosters international collaboration between countries. While I was unable to fulfill the grant in-county due to visa issues, I worked remotely with the Nankai University Center for Behavioural Sciences in China.

If a close friend asked you why you’re studying public health, what would you tell them?
[Olivia]  As a freshman in college I was like, “I’m pre-med’, and then I realized I wanted to have more of an upstream effect. I had done some STEM-ed outreach in high school and I loved the outreach aspect but I wanted to remain in the healthcare space.

What are your favorite courses, and why?
[Olivia] I love my biostatistics and epidemiology courses because I now have the tools I need to do the research I want. I get to work hands on and side-by-side with faculty in the School of Public Health. During last summer’s Public Health Institute, I took an LGBTQ+ policy course and the environment was great, despite being online. 

What issue, problem, or area of research in public health do you care the most about and why?
[Olivia] If I had to summarize it, it would be maternal and child health research that helps groups that are overlooked — such as gender and sexual minority parents and incarcerated parents.

How are you addressing these issues?
[Olivia] I’ve been able to conduct a fair amount of research on gender and sexual minority health here at the School of Public Health, including a pilot study on gender and sexual minority patient sensitivity training for EMT students. In terms of incarcerated parents’ health, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Dr. Rebecca Shlafer as a peer facilitator for the Women’s Health Course at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Shakopee, as well as an intern for a large grant between the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Department of Health to improve outcomes for incarcerated parents and their children.

How has SPH been a good fit for you?
[Olivia] I’m pretty independent, and because what I’m interested in is so niche, if I went somewhere else, I don’t think I would have been able to do what I want to do — fitting in the two minors with a very different major, and the variety of course offerings. The faculty are also really supportive and accessible. 

What do you like about being in Minnesota?
[Olivia] The cold was hard but you learn to embrace it. You have a sense of pride after surviving it — embracing the winters. I’ve made a trip to the boundary waters and it is stunning.

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