Evelyn Siu ’15 opened our conversation with a laugh: “joining the Global Health Program really threw my career plans off track,” she said. In her second year with the GHP program, she dropped her plans for medical school to explore other aspects of health and health policy. She’s since jumped from the basic sciences to the social sciences to the business side of health, in the US and abroad.
Evelyn grew up in a very scientifically-oriented family. She came to Princeton with a deep interest in the biological and clinical sides of health, and the strong desire to become a doctor. Joining GHP in her junior year, she says, opened her eyes to a new perspective on health. “It [GHP] taught me that successful healthcare cannot work with only the scientific aspect… Global health is a field that requires a diversity of views. You can’t only have scientists, coming from a scientific perspective, and expect to vaccinate everyone in a country.” She learned to embrace the different sides of health. Through GHP seminars and lunch colloquiums she engaged with health issues at a variety of levels (from minute details to large policy questions) and from many different perspectives (molecular biology to anthropology to economics). Studying with the Global Health Program showed her the value of interdisciplinary study and interventions: “if you hadn’t been exposed to situations like this [in GHP classrooms and events], you can very easily become insulated in your way of thinking.”
She’s grateful to the many professors, speakers, and GHP connections that helped her to explore the different arenas of global health. She shared a memorable story from her junior year: after a GHP event with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) about energy security and malaria in Southeast Asia, Evelyn (with the help of GHP director Kristina Graff) was able to speak individually with the panelists. “He [the panelist] was very friendly and open about discussing his research, background, and career advice with me,” she said. “He even introduced me to another researcher who was working on a malaria vaccine that I could connect with.” These discussions led to an invitation to attend a conference on malaria in Washington, D.C. later that year, as she was studying malaria infection in human liver chimeric mice for her thesis. Evelyn’s connections, facilitated by GHP, gave her a unique experience with two distinct perspectives on malaria: lab and policy. Her lab thesis brought her to a policy-centered conference. This sort of interdisciplinary thinking is extremely valuable in global health work. The most important skill she has taken from GHP, she says, is “to be malleable in your way of thinking.” Embracing multiple perspectives has helped her jump between basic science and social sciences, and now from research into business.
After graduation, Evelyn spent a year studying doctor-patient relationships in Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. The experience taught her about the nuances of a universal healthcare system, the challenges of living abroad, and the advantages of qualitative research. Now back in the US, Evelyn has accepted a position in the Life Sciences Division of Simon-Kucher and Partners, a consulting firm. This position will introduce her to many different aspects of healthcare while broadening her economic and business health skills. Down the line, she hopes to end up in the nonprofit sphere.
Evelyn encourages current GHP students to be proactive and listen to those who have wisdom to share. Connections may alter your path; if they do, think big picture. “One reason I wanted to enter medicine is because I really enjoy working with people, particularly when there’s a problem that needs solving. That passion has translated into global health.” If you follow your passions, you’ll find a way.