A research trip to Costa Rica last summer inspired Keira Dagy ’19 to combine her interest in global health with a long-time goal to pursue a career in environmental science.
Keira travelled to Costa Rica with Dr. Brett Bayles’ Planetary Health Perspectives course in Global Public Health. The students explored the links between ecosystem health and human health, studying how the natural, built, and social environments coalesce to impact health outcomes at local, regional, and global levels.
Costa Rica is home to 24 indigenous territories, many of which are hard-to-access locations with limited access to healthcare. The students heard from local agencies about challenges associated with controlling and treating disease in these remote indigenous communities.
When Keira returned to Dominican for her senior year, she drew on the experiences in Costa Rica to examine whether Leishmaniosis, a parasitic disease transmitted through the bite of infected female sandflies, is more or less prevalent in the indigenous territories.
Guided by Dr. Bayes in the School of Health and Natural Sciences, Keira is collecting and studying census data, crunching numbers, conducting literature reviews, and using sophisticated geographic information systems (GIS) and spatial analytical tools to generate a map showing Leishmaniosis hotspots in Costa Rica.
The work is giving Keira a head start on grad school.
“I’m involved with a lot of cool hands-on experiences that I can put on my resume,” Keira says.
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This is not the direction Keira had imagined her Dominican experience would head when, as a high school junior at Carlsbad High School in Southern California, she committed to play NCAA Division II soccer at Dominican.
“In high school, I was really interested in environmental science, but as Dominican did not have an environmental science major, I chose a public health major with minors in environmental science and Spanish,” she says. “As I started taking classes, public health drew me in.”
The opportunity to travel to Costa Rica came her junior year while studying epidemiology with Bayles. A grant from Dominican helped fund the program.
“Dr. Bayles told us about his plans for a study abroad program and it just sounded so interesting,” Keira recalls. “I saw an opportunity to conduct research that would mix public health with environmental science. I knew that it was a great opportunity.”
Bayles, who is advancing the study of Planetary Health at Dominican, inspired Keira to apply for grad school.
“He has encouraged my research and is supporting me by writing letters of recommendation,” Keira says. “He has inspired me to continue with my education so that I can do my own research in the future.”
Keira plans to study either global health or community health with an environmental concentration.
“In graduate school I’m looking forward to blending environmental science and health. I’ve had great experiences at Dominican and great support from my professors that have led me to this path.”