Write an essay where you tell us about what drives you in your pursuit of your graduate degree.

Okadas (dilapidated motorcycles), shouts from vendors, and conversations among natives fill the busy road of Kissy Bye. Immersing myself in the bustle of Freetown, Sierra Leone I am enamored. On my journey through the busy streets of Sierra Leone, my gaze falls upon Bomeh. Bomeh, once named Granville Dumpsite, is the largest toxic dumpsite east of Freetown. Bomeh was once a thriving site that employed many, but is now a desolate landfill housing young women and children. Affected by a long civil war and corruption is one of the poorest nations in the world; a nation in which health gaps are striking between the rich and the poor. At this moment I realize that Sierra Leone is becoming a country that is nearly uninhabitable.
Makeshift houses made from scrap metal sheets known as “pan bodies” enclose a stagnant pond in Bomeh. Deprived of clean drinking water; residents suffer due to improper pipe connections and faulty water filtration systems. Contamination of reservoirs is one of the leading causes of death. Due to poor waste management and sanitation practices, over 20,000 cholera cases were reported in 2012, resulting in 200 deaths. Public awareness programs engaging the government to cultivate the land are needed to change the management of water. My experience through Bomeh solidified my passion for public/environmental health, and allowed me to realize that Sierra Leone needs an effective health sanitation system.
My fervor for public health is not confined to the borders of Sierra Leone; I am passionate about public health in the United States. The health disparities affecting Sierra Leone are comparable to the socioeconomic health disparities in the US. In Atlanta, I witnessed the health disparities African American women face. African American women are 40% more likely to die from breast cancer in comparison to Caucasian women. Volunteering at the Center for Black Women’s Wellness regular mammograms seemed to be a foreign concept. I wondered why these women

Nafissa from Massachusetts
Emory University Rollins School of Public Health