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Madeline Oguss

Graduate Student in the MS Population Health program since 2014


Indianapolis, Indiana


Brief Interest Statement: I gained a B.A. in Social Welfare from UW-Madison and a Certificate in Environmental Studies from the Gaylord Nelson Institute. This combined education experience brought me to the field of population health as the social and health consequences of a harmful environment were revealed to me. I became very interested and focused on respiratory disease as a result of exposure to chemicals, particulates and toxins in pollution and consumer products. My interests led me to an internship with the Wisconsin Bureau of Occupational and Environmental Health, work with a Post doc from this department whom introduced me to research on innovative interventions for asthma and grassroots population health education, and finally, my current work with the UW Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention (UW-CTRI). Through my work at UW-CTRI, I gained a great appreciation for the mission of understanding the nature and extent of harm caused by tobacco, developing translational interventions for tobacco cessation, and the art and science of research administration. My hope is to continue my education in research methods, round off my statistical, database organizational, managerial, and writing skill sets in order to effectively play a part in the development and implementation of new research projects and publications at UW-CTRI. I hope to do this while learning about other research findings and endeavors currently underway within the broader field of population health, continuing to dabble in the topic of respiratory diseases and causes beyond tobacco, and witness research in other laboratory settings.

What experiences in your life led you to study population/public health? When I was just starting out as an undergraduate, I became attracted to social work since it is a very practical helping field that looks at an enormous array of factors that could contribute to a person's problem and strives to customize an intervention that is appropriate for an individual's particular needs and context. The field spoke to me because it encompassed so many different areas of expertise. I pursued the degree, but in the back on my mind, I knew that this was not quite a fit for me. My statistics and methods classes introduced me to health science research, which presented an opportunity to explore evidence-based solutions that will help a larger population, rather than a person or family at a time. In addition, they taught me the potential use of logic and problem-solving skills in a career that I found suited me more than social work. During this time of clarity, I was taking a class about the setting of urban education and another about air pollution. The two classes revealed to me the striking prevalence and consequences of asthma on various populations, plus the ever encroaching environment of particulates and toxins that people are exposed to that result in the development of respiratory diseases. My newfound avenue to help larger populations through research plus a new topic of interest in which I desired to learn more about led me to look at various fields that would support such research. Population Health was the natural field choice through which I could participate in surveillance and research opportunities relating to my interests.

Why did you choose UW-Madison for your degree: I find that the breadth of the courses offered, the close connections to faculty (whom have such the impressive and diverse backgrounds) and the resources of this department will provide me with the experience, information, support I desire. I also am pleased to stay in Madison so I am able to maintain my position at the UW Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention and directly apply what I learn to my work at the Center.

What do you hope/plan to do with your degree? I hope to use the new skills and insight I gain from this program to be a more well-rounded population health research administrator and gain new opportunities to contribute to the field of tobacco research and health sciences research.