New College, says fourth-year student Edline Francois, has taught her how to handle anything the world throws at her.

A Passion for Public Health

These days, you never know where you’ll find New College student Edline Francois.

Now in her fourth year, she’s often working on her thesis project, examining how physician bias contributes to higher infant mortality rates among African-American infants.

But Francois also structured her schedule to allow her to work full-time. So six days a week, she travels to Bradenton, where she works with patients for MCR Health Services, a network of clinics serving low-income people. And on her day off, she works for Planned Parenthood, where she is a public policy and outreach intern.

And she doesn’t take a break in the summer: She has worked for the Sarasota County Health Department and Oregon Health and Sciences University on public health issues.

It sounds like a daunting amount of work, but as Francois says, “I realized that when you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work.”

She took a winding path to her interest in public health. Francois transferred to New College from the honors college at Palm Beach State College, coming here to study biochemistry. She was drawn to New College for its small classes and reputation for student-faculty collaborations. “I knew that here I would have the opportunity to do in-depth research,” she said.

She was considering pursuing a career in medicine or chemistry, but a series of internships and independent projects, a staple of the New College education, helped her discover a new interest.

For one project, she shadowed a OB/GYN in Sarasota. Doing thesis research, she learned about the pressures minority physicians face. And at her Oregon internship, she researched gentrification and how it impacts health care accessibility in older African Americans. “I have to honestly say that my experience in Portland made me realize that public health is my passion,” she said.

Francois said her experience at New College made it possible.

“New has taught me that there are many roads that lead to the same outcome,” she said. “In other words, I don’t have to take the same path that my friend takes to become a public health professional. I love the fact that there are always options.”

She credits faculty members, like biology Professor Sandra Gilchrist. “She has been my advisor since I’ve been here and I have grown immensely under her guidance. She is tough because she wants things done correctly and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

But she also said her New College support system goes beyond faculty to several staff members – the registrar who helped get her credits transferred, the financial aid director, who helped her find ways to cover tuition costs, the internship coordinator who started her on the community service path.

New College, she said, has taught her how to handle anything the world throws at her.

“New College has taught me how to anticipate curveballs and roll with them,” she says. “As a result, I understand my capabilities and my value to any organization that I would choose to work for.”

After graduation, Francois plans to pursue a Ph.D. in public health and to work for better medical care in the community, following in a long tradition of New College students putting their studies to work improving their world.