April 5, 2010
Jeremy Craig, 404-413-1357
Rueben Carter doesn't have many memories of his late uncle who died of AIDS when Carter was very young, but he does remember his relatives who spoke of him with a sense of disgrace.
As a peer health educator, Carter, a junior majoring in managerial sciences, received special training in public health initiatives and he now challenges his fellow students to question their beliefs and to replace misconceptions with knowledge and understanding.
"Doing this is very personally fulfilling, because some people do not seek help if they believe they will be stigmatized," Carter said.
Carter said his family's experiences with ill health, from HIV/AIDS, to breast cancer, asthma and drug dependency, have inspired him to pursue a life of service in public health. And he's used both pre-college undergraduate programs at GSU as foundations to achieve his goals.
Carter first came into contact with Georgia State while at Southwest DeKalb High School, participating in the Upward Bound program.
"It made me comfortable with campus, and I met the professors before I came here," he said. "It gave me a lot of exposure I probably wouldn't have had if I hadn't been in it. A lot of people who had been successful came to talk to us, and I became inspired to go to college and dream big. It challenged me."
After spending time on GSU's downtown campus, making the choice to become a Panther was natural for him, and he chose to pursue managerial science. But public health became his passion as he moved further along and worked in promoting student health, using his family's experiences as inspiration.
Then came an opportunity for undergraduate research - a major component of learning at Georgia State University and an opportunity to get a taste of what academic life is like. He joined the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program, an initiative of the U.S. Department of Education that seeks to increase the number of Ph.D. holders among minority and low income, first generation college students - historically underrepresented in academia.
Under the tutelage of faculty in the Institute of Public Health, he pursued a project looking at domestic violence against women in Peru. He gained valuable experience presenting his research during the summer of 2009 at Georgia State, and went on to garner the Ruth and William Silen, M.D. Honorable Mention Award at the 2010 New England Science Symposium at Harvard Medical School.
"At first, presenting is kind of intimidating," Carter said. "But I've had a lot of preparation, with public speaking courses, and with competition at GSU. I must have given my presentation [to my faculty advisor] at least 20 times, but it gets easier and it gets to be a skill."
After graduation, he hopes to start a non-profit organization that will conduct research and conduct outreach to address health issues among the African-American community.
He also has plans to pursue a master's degree, and eventually a doctorate, in public health - with his sights on schools like Johns Hopkins or Harvard. He is currently applying for a National Institutes of Health program that will allow him to work in a research position for a few years before going to graduate school.
"It's been great to just go through the research process," Carter said. "By working with the faculty and all of the program's support staff, it's definitely solidified my interest to pursue research."