Jaxon Abercrombie earns his Master of Science in Public Health Data Science and Bachelor of Science in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention through the progressive degree program.
Why did you choose to pursue your degree?
This May, I am fortunate to be graduating with two degrees from the Keck School of Medicine: a bachelor’s degree in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (HP) and a master’s degree in Public Health Data Science (PHDS). The USC Progressive Degree Program allowed me to leverage my undergraduate background in population health and learn to change lives through data science and storytelling. Throughout my time in both programs, my passions for environmental justice, infectious disease surveillance, and diabetes have blossomed. I owe the last four years of happiness and fulfillment to Keck’s unique programs!
Before even coming to USC, my livelihood has depended on health data because of my lived experience with type 1 diabetes. Every second of every day, the marriage of machine learning algorithms and continuous glucose monitors maintains and improves my health. Recognizing that access to such technology is disparate across populations, I became motivated to pursue my degrees in HP and PHDS to empower underserved patients through data and technology. As social determinants of health are essential in understanding patients, I knew Keck would equip me with tools to ensure that underserved patients and their data are at the forefront of my dream work in larger biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies.
What’s one of your favorite memories from your program?
I enrolled in my first graduate-level course, PM 520, last spring. Still an undergraduate student, Advanced Statistical Computing certainly intimidated me, but the course helped reinforce my sense of belonging and passion for the PHDS program. If you had asked me freshman year how to represent urn models or assess the randomness of cells in tissue, I would not know where to begin! The class advanced my understanding of statistics exponentially and significantly enhanced my programming skills. A memory I will never forget in PM 520 was when one homework assignment called for the creation of a fractal generated from code. Our class exhibited an art gallery to display all of our masterpieces, and, to my surprise, my fractal won first place by a class vote. That feeling of support from peers and my professor in my first graduate class reminded me that pursuing PHDS was the right choice.
What will you miss most and why?
Undoubtedly, I will miss the amazing faculty the most! Not only are their accomplishments and backgrounds inspiring, but their kindness and dedication to helping students achieve goals is unrivaled. Among all departments at USC, I think the Population and Public Health Sciences department understands empathy most and never loses sight of its mission to achieve health equity. It is so evident that all faculty commit themselves to their work and future generations of public health professionals!
What advice do you have for future grads?
Balance your time and find your escape! Nothing is more important than prioritizing your social life and your own health alongside coursework. Meet up with classmates outside the classroom for coffee, explore the exciting Los Angeles landscape, and make time for exercise that breaks up those busy study days. Especially at USC, the opportunities are endless to make your time as a student memorable.