Alumni Health Heroes

Epidemiologist keeps her eye on the data to better serve those with HIV/AIDS 

Meet Dean’s Health Hero Priya Kumar

Portrait of student in red shirt

Priyamvada Kumar, MPH ’20, worked in public health in India prior to earning her master’s degree in epidemiology at Oregon State.

She is now a research analyst II with the Division of HIV/AIDS and STD program at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. 

What inspired you to pursue an MPH in epidemiology? 

Before coming to Oregon State, I had worked in public health for over three years in India. A lot of my work involved monitoring and analyzing data from public health surveys and programs. I loved working on quantitative data and wanted to work in public health surveillance to generate evidence-based data. An MPH degree in epidemiology seemed the way forward.  

Tell us about your time at Oregon State. Is there someone that helped you be successful? 

My time at OSU was about learning many things. I learned a goal-centric approach to academic learning, managing my time between work, study and family, and developed a very good cultural understanding of public health and academia. 

My family and my advisor, Dr. Viktor Bovbjerg, were my biggest supporters in this journey. They believed in me and guided me through my most difficult times.  

Dr. Bovbjerg is an amazing advisor, who knows what his students are capable of. He set the path for my successful career, from understanding my career interests to supporting me with great internship and job opportunities. 

What challenges did you overcome along your academic journey? 

One of the challenges that I faced was balancing my work, study and family, all while adapting to learning the culture in a new country. However, all of it gave me an opportunity to embrace my new environment and find ways and different support systems to navigate through it.   

Can you tell us about your epidemiology career progression?  

Currently, I am working as a Research Analyst II (RA II) with the Division of HIV/AIDS and STD program at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LAC-DPH). After my MPH, I started as an RA II for LAC-DPH through Heluna Health. In late 2022, I was offered a permanent position in the same role at LAC-DPH.  

My favorite part of my job is to be able to ensure high-quality HIV surveillance data while enjoying working on complex SAS programs. I believe surveillance is very critical to understanding the disease trends and subsequent program planning for the large number of people living with HIV/AIDS. 

My MPH degree in epidemiology was very helpful in getting my current job. The degree not only is a preferred qualification for this job, but it also has trained me in important data management and programming skills needed for my work.

What would you say to current and prospective students? 

I would advise them that in addition to being focused on their dreams and aspirations, it is also important to prioritize themselves and their needs. It is OK to take some time for yourself to think and introspect. I strongly believe when your mind is at peace, you sail through the most difficult challenges.