“Maybe I’m impatient,” says Celine Gounder, M.D. ’04. “Maybe I just want to have an impact on public health sooner.” The desire to make a real-time difference is reflected in her career trajectory; after college, she worked under Ralph Nader on tuberculosis awareness and earned a master’s in epidemiology at Johns Hopkins — all before entering the UW School of Medicine.
At medical school, Gounder co-founded the International Health Group and helped establish international health electives. Trips to Soweto, South Africa, to work with HIV- and TB-affected populations punctuated her time as a student and her residency at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Gounder then spent several years researching TB and HIV in sub-Saharan Africa while at Johns Hopkins, but she eventually found it frustrating. “It is hard in academia to have an impact on public health,” says Gounder, “at least not until much later in your career.” After working for the New York City’s health department, she decided to make a shift. She stepped back and took a look at her husband’s career: the media.
“I saw medical journalism as another way of having a public-health impact,” says Gounder. So she started writing and speaking about issues ranging from Ebola, to measles, to prescription pain medications. Her work has been web-published by The New Yorker, The Atlantic and Reuters, and she appears frequently on CNN and Al Jazeera America. “I try to be the voice of reason in these discussions,” she says. “I think there’s really a need for thoughtful medical reporting.”
Gounder, who practices medicine part-time for the Mount Sinai Health System in New York, is now volunteering in Guinea with the International Medical Corps, focusing on training and capacity-building to address the Ebola outbreak. “Career satisfaction is not just about the long-term impact, it’s also about feeling fulfilled day-to-day,” she explains. “I think I am finally arriving at a place where I have both.”