Finding support through the Global Health Program: Nazli Senyuva ‘12

Written by
Erin Wispelwey
Oct. 5, 2017

Over the past five years, Career Services at Princeton has been trying to reframe how undergraduates approach their career paths to a hypothesis-driven approach: Explore-Try-Reflect-Change, Explore-Try-Reflect-Change.... Nazli Senyuva ‘12, a GHP alum and PhD student in Health Communications, has exemplified this approach.

The GHP, itself, was an iteration to her path. “I grew up in a family of doctors, and I was always interested in health. So going into Princeton I was a pre-med and an ORFE major. But I took so much chemistry, physics and math that I drowned, and I realized [becoming a doctor] wasn’t what I wanted.” Initially she thought she’d have to give up a career in health as well. But through the GHP, Nazli was able to connect her interest in health with her new major in economics, and she wrote her senior thesis on women’s health from a health economics perspective—specifically, how socioeconomic factors shaped women’s decisions about the emergency contraceptive pill.

Her next career experiment was as a medical researcher with the Dr. Oz show. Nazli interned at the Dr. Oz show in New York City for her global health internship between her Junior and Senior Years, and she enjoyed the medical translation aspect of her work—talking about how things work in the body with the producers in a way that an audience would find informative and interesting. She joined the medical research unit at the Dr. Oz show after graduation. During this year, she discovered her passion for health writing. However, although she enjoyed researching and writing numerous columns for the Dr. Oz show, she was a ghost writer and realized she wanted to see her own name attached to her work. So, for her next career iteration, she pursued journalism.

At Columbia’s School of Journalism, she hoped to further hone her writing and medical translation skills to help the public understand health research in a manner that wasn’t jargony or boring. For her master’s thesis, she wrote a long form piece on the clash of midwifery and the medicalization of birth in the United States; this experience made her realize how much she liked the research aspect of writing as well as being a part of a school community. She looked further into opportunities that combined research with opportunities to teach and learn, and she decided to pursue health communications from a research lens within academia.

Currently, Nazli is pursuing a PhD in health communications at the University of Southern California. She continues to love research—especially field research—because it gives her an opportunity to communicate with people on the ground. In addition to finding the research process rewarding, she enjoys seeing the results of her work realized. “Research and publishing can bring change, whether that’s a policy change or a change to a school’s nutrition program.”  She also enjoys being a Teacher Assistant (TA), getting to teach what she knows and establishing relationships with students in office hours.

Although there will be many iterations to come, she has moved closer to her calling with each Explore-Try-Reflect-Change cycle. She has loved medicine, global health and epidemiology, health writing, and now is combining these passions as she works to improve women’s health through research in health communications!

The GHP was not just a layover on her path, or just a place for her to learn valuable epidemiology and statistics skills, but the GHP program also supported her along the way. Her summer internship with the Dr. Oz show was unpaid. GHP helped her secure a stipend for her to able to live in NYC for the summer. She advises current students, “don’t assume that an opportunity is unavailable for financial reasons, always ask what support is available.”

GHP staff and faculty connections and advice have also led to internships and research opportunities in the years since she has graduated. Four years after graduating from Princeton Nazli was looking for an internship in London and reached out to her GHP professors for ideas. By the end of the day, they connected her to two opportunities and she ended up working with the editorial team of Mosaic Science, an online science journal published by the Wellcome Trust. Thus, her biggest advice to current students is: “get to know your professors!” As a freshman and sophomore, Nazli remembers being intimidated to talk to professors, and she tried to figure things out on her own or with classmates.  However, she later realized how much she could learn from them. “It’s so important to communicate; there is no reason to be hesitant about it. I remember being stuck on problem sets, and it would have been so easy to email the TA. I don’t know why but I saw it as a weakness. Now that I’m also a TA, I see it very differently. If I were to do it again, I would go to every office hour of every professor. There is so much you can learn, both in terms of class material and in terms of career options. Go the extra mile and make the connections, the personal connections have opened up opportunities and interests more than anything else.”