Mary Jung
Mary Jung

Alumna Mary Jung is a long-time Terp having earned three degrees at the University of Maryland, College Park: a BS in biological sciences as well as a MPH and PhD with a concentration in epidemiology.

Jung did not start her college career at the School of Public Health but became interested after taking a few introductory courses as electives.

“The more courses I took I found myself being more drawn to the School of Public Health,” Jung said. “I came to realize how interested in it I really was.”

After graduating with her bachelors, Jung chose to enter the MPH program to gain training as an epidemiologist. She was particularly drawn to the “close-knit” SPH community. Her advisor was Dr. Sunmin Lee. From day one, Jung said Dr. Lee was a supportive advisor and mentor, who integrated her into various projects and research that Lee was working on. 

“[Dr. Lee] really did shape my graduating experience,” Jung said.

The pair worked together for eight years while Jung pursued her masters and doctorate degrees. One of the projects that impacted Jung the most was her involvement with a support program for Korean breast cancer survivors called Together Overcome and Get Empowered Through Health Education and Relationships (TOGETHER).

While breast cancer is the most common cancer among Korean women in the United States, few resources existed beyond those for white and English-speaking women. As part of the TOGETHER research team, Jung helped to provide a space where Korean breast cancer survivors could meet and bond over seven weekly sessions led by two female bilingual licensed clinical psychologists. There the participants received information about navigating and overcoming cancer in addition to social support. 

“I wanted to help these women improve their quality of life,” said Jung.

In addition to the breast cancer survivor program, Jung said she appreciated the amount of practical research experience she was able to conduct during her graduate studies. Her masters program included an internship requirement, which Jung called “really enriching and really vital.”

Those research and hands-on experiences “impacted [my] thinking and moving forward as an epidemiologist and researcher,” Jung said.

While she gained an appreciation for the depth that data can add to a study, Jung said the SPH program taught her that “behind these numbers are real people and real faces, and that’s something I’ll never forget.”

She urged current students to get as much hands-on experience as possible and take advantage of opportunities both in and outside the School of Public Health.

Jung also stressed the importance of friendship: “Stay connected with peers because those friendships go beyond your years at the university.”

“The friendships that I made along the way were really special,” Jung continued. “It doesn’t end after graduation.”

Jung is currently an ORISE fellow at the Food and Drug Administration, where she’s worked for about two years. The fellowship presents more research opportunities, which Jung is using to work on medical device safety.

As Jung delves into her career, she is mindful of what she learned through her work at Maryland: “I still believe that health disparities is one of the biggest challenges in the field.”

But rather than let those disparities discourage her, Jung continues to strive for health equity

“We see public health all around us,” she said. “I chose public health because of the amazing impact we have to improve the lives of people.”