StoryCorps at SHC: Sasha Madison & Lucy Tompkins

I was told it was a waste of my time, a waste of my education.

Sasha Madison (SM): I graduated from my Master's of Public Healtha number of decades ago, 1978 to be exact. And at that time, when I was thinking about what I wanted to do with my MPH in epidemiology, I asked for advice from my advisor. And I said that I was interested in going into hospital epidemiology, infection prevention, or actually back then, infection control. I was told it was a waste of my time, a waste of my education, and that all infectious diseases would be cured by the year 2000, but I could certainly go ahead and try if I wanted. And I said, "Well, I'll hedge my bets on that infectious diseases will still be around." And I was very excited to start in a brand new field. I knew pretty much right from the beginning that every day would be different. But I never, in my wildest dreams, would've thought that Iwould see what I saw over the decades with regard to pandemics and epidemics.The AIDS pandemic or epidemic, that was the first epidemic that I was involved in. It was such an important part of my career, and it really prepared me in many ways for what weare seeing now with COVID, it was this translation of science, bringing it to all the caregivers. And most of all, it taught me to make sure that I respected all the people that I worked with and that no question was too dumb or to say, "You don't need tobe worried. You don't need to be afraid." I would be the one that would have to model behavior and try and calm people down while we integrated what we knew about science to make people feel comfortable enough to care for patients. And I think that's one of the really unique opportunities and responsibilities that we have is that intersection of science and the people that we work with, and making sure that they feel comfortable enough to care for the patients during pandemics. For me, it was definitely a very defining moment for my career.

Sound Editor: Amy Hu

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