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Jill Baumgartner

Alumni of the PhD Population Health program since 2010


Hometown: Sun Prairie, Wisconsin
Areas of interest within Population Health: understanding the environmental determinants of health and disease at the population level; evaluating the effectiveness of appropriate technologies in reducing environmental risks
Title of Thesis/Dissertation: The effects of biomass smoke exposure on blood pressure among women and children in rural China and the United States.
Brief Interest Statement: Jill Baumgartner is a joint Ph.D. candidate in Population Health and Environment & Resources. She holds an M.S. in Population and International Health from Harvard University (2006) where her research focused on household water and sanitation technology assessment in Kenya and India. Prior to graduate school, Jill worked at several nongovernmental organizations including CARE-South Africa and Satellife (Boston). She also served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in China where she worked in community development and education. Jill was recently awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to collect data for her dissertation on the cardiovascular health effects of exposure to biomass smoke from indoor cooking and heating in rural northwest Yunnan, China. Her other interests include hiking and exploring new places around the world, and she really wants to learn how to surf.
What experiences in your life led you to study population/public health? My interest in public health initially developed while living in China as a Peace Corps volunteer where I saw an urgent need for sustainable environmental health initiatives to accompany the country’s rapid urbanization and development. In my community in the Sichuan Province, frequent exposure to risk factors such as unsafe water, indoor and outdoor air pollution and inadequate sanitation was reflected by high rates of respiratory illness, diarrheal disease and a short–lived cholera outbreak. Further, vast deforestation throughout the region instigated repeated summer flooding which was followed by water contamination, forced population migration and increased risks of vector-borne disease outbreaks. Through this, I saw firsthand how the combination of rapid development and ecosystem disturbances dramatically impacted the health of my community and this eventually led me to apply to graduate studies in public health.
Why did you choose UW-Madison for your degree? I was interested in the UW-Madison because of its integrated approach to population health, and the faculty and departmental resources that are available for bridging the relationship between human health and the environment.
What do you hope/plan to do with your degree? Undecided. I would ideally like to work on international environmental health projects through a multilateral or governmental institutions focused on improving population health in low-resource countries. Also attractive is a position in an academic institution where I could pursue personal and interdisciplinary research while helping students to develop their own research interests.