Brennan Burrows said he did not know what public health was when he came to the University of Michigan.
Four years of study and a global pandemic later, it’s safe to say Burrows has a solid understanding of the field and a fairly clear picture of his future.
Burrows is scheduled to graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in public health from the School of Public Health, and a minor in multi-disciplinary engineering design.
He credits joining the Health Sciences Scholars Program, a living, learning community for freshmen, for helping introduce him to the field and a close-knit community of friends.
“We all took a course together as pre-health students, which exposed us to the field of public health,” Burrows said. “I thought public health was really interesting, because it balanced biology with social determinants of health. Having this perspective going into medicine will allow me to be more mindful of how our environment shapes health and results in health disparities.”
In the interest of exploring that field more extensively, he went to India through the Summer in South Asia Fellowship after his freshman year to intern with an organization for six weeks. While there, he worked with local health clinics where his spark for public health grew.
His sophomore year was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but that offered opportunities for Burrows to involve himself in the university and public health. As a public health navigator for SPH, he surveyed students about their needs during the pandemic and reported results to faculty and administrators.
This past year, his role has included outreach specifically with international students and students who are parents — populations that are “not well-represented” at the school, he said.
Burrows also served as a contact tracer for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and experienced difficult conversations with COVID-positive patients who were not on board with quarantining.
Most recently, he’s been involved with Project MESA, a global health project where participants are focused on developing a portable gynecological examination table to help health officials reach remote rural communities, particularly in South America. This summer he will travel to Peru to test the device and collect data.
Burrows plans to start medical school at Wayne State University a month after returning from Peru and is keeping open his options for the type of physician he will become.
A native of Oxford, Michigan, and a graduate of Oxford High School, Burrows said he has a greater appreciation for his small hometown since the tragic shooting that occurred there Nov. 30, 2021.
“It motivates me to put my public health education into action because I recognize how gun violence and policy can shape our health,” he said. “That has helped solidify my future plans in reducing health disparities.”