Soo Kyung Park

In 2015, Soo Kyung Park graduated with a B.S. degree in life sciences and minor in bioinformatics from Ewha Womans University in South Korea. She then completed her MPH in biostatistics in 2017. 

In one sentence, what is public health to you?

Public health to me is raising awareness of the need to improve health in every population and individual in our society.

What inspired you to study public health?

One day in my senior year as an undergraduate, I had a chance to take a nutrition class in which I became fascinated with Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data. It was very interesting to see how people’s health behaviors, such as those related to diet and chronic disease, are related to and can affect their physical and mental health. Through this class, I not only saw the impact of public health in our daily living, but I was also surprised to see how data could be used to convey messages to the public. Afterwards, I found myself especially interested in learning more about how to manage and analyze data.

What do you think is the biggest challenge that the public health field should be focusing on?

I think one of the biggest challenges that public health encounters is raising people’s awareness of its importance and helping them make changes to improve their lives. I personally think that solving health disparities and promoting children’s and elders’ health are some of the major issues in public health.

Why did you choose public health at UMD?

First of all, I recognized that our program was relatively new and small, but also a fast-growing and challenging program. I knew that I wanted close and intimate relationships with faculty members in graduate school, and I feel that I have been well supported by the faculty members in our department in learning, experiencing research, and exploring diverse career paths. Also, I was attracted to the MPH program curriculum, which is well-balanced between theoretical foundations and practical applications. Last but not least, the location of UMD is close to D.C. and surrounded by government institutions and health research centers, which strongly gave me the impression that UMD would be a great place to study public health.

How has your degree program at UMD's School of Public Health shaped your career goals?

I like how our MPH program in biostatistics helps students to plan out their coursework for the two year program. After following the course sequence, I feel that I am well-trained to provide data management and analysis for data coming from various sectors of public health.

What has your experience been like interning at the Medstar Health Research Institute (MHRI) in Hyattsville, MD this semester? 

Since January of this year, I have been interning under the supervision of Dr. Jim Huang, who is a health research services scientist at MHRI. At MHRI, I have been involved in one of the newly initiated projects in conjunction with the Surgical Department at Medstar Hospital. This project aims to construct a prediction model to investigate factors and costs related to the readmission of patients, who have undergone surgery for major types of cancer. As part of my internship, I have learned new methods, including decision tree and artificial neural network (ANN) analysis. I am now working on providing descriptive statistics and conducting multivariate logistic regression, which I learned this past fall in my Categorical Data Analysis class. My internship provided me with an excellent opportunity to review and apply the statistical methods that I learned using real life data. I look forward to learning and exploring decision tree and ANN methods further during the rest of my internship.