As a child, Aubrey Massmann wanted to become a journalist, but that changed when she was in middle school.
“My dad got really sick. That was formative for me,” she says. “I’d always loved hearing people’s stories, but I realized a lot of people were falling through the cracks in medicine, and they needed their stories told.”
Aubrey will graduate from DMU in May with a doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.) degree from the College of Osteopathic Medicine (COM) and a master of public health (M.P.H.) degree from the College of Health Sciences (CHS). Those dual credentials reflect her passion for health care, patient advocacy and the environment – and those passions fueled her accomplishments as a DMU student, which led to her selection for a 2021 Excellence in Public Health Award from the U.S. Public Health Service Physician Professional Advisory Committee.
The U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) is a division of the Department of Health and Human Services concerned with public health. Aubrey was nominated for the award by COM Dean Steven Halm, D.O., FAAP, FACP, supported by recommendations from Pamela Duffy, P.T., Ph.D., FAPTA, associate professor of public health, health care administration and global health; Rachel Reimer, Ph.D., director of the master’s degree programs in public health and health care administration in CHS; and Craig Canby, Ph.D., COM associate dean for academic curriculum and medical programs.
“I was shocked about the award. When I got the email message that Dean Halm wanted to speak with me, I thought I was in trouble,” she quips. “It’s a big honor.”
But not her first: In 2019, Aubrey was chosen for an eight-week internship at the United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) in Washington, DC, as part of the DMU Department of Global Health’s Distinguished Global Health Internships program. These internships enable select students to collaborate with researchers to explore global health research topics at various national organizations. At USGCRP, she worked to analyze health outcome indicators related to climate change, creating a catalog of indicators for public and agency use. She also assisted in the creation of the Climate and Health Monitoring Outlook, a forecasting tool utilizing sophisticated predictive modeling to anticipate changes in the incidence of climate-sensitive infectious diseases using seasonal weather data.
“The projects were interesting, those whom I worked with were incredibly welcoming and wonderfully helpful throughout my time there, and I was able to connect with a network of important climate and health scientists that I know I can draw on down the line in my career,” she said after the experience. “I have always known that my career as a physician would be supplemented with work in the environmental sector.”
In late 2019, Aubrey was among 12 M.P.H. candidates nationwide named by the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, a peer-reviewed journal focused on public health research and practice, as “Students Who Rocked Public Health in 2019.” Nominees were evaluated on timeliness and urgency of the public health issue addressed, level of success achieved, overall impact of the project, and level of inclusiveness and diversity.
“Public health has many more implications on health than people think,” she says. “Social determinants of health are major factors in people’s lives. Laws, the policies that guide them, the resources available to people and research also play huge roles.”
Aubrey plans to continue “bridging the gap” among health care providers, scientists and public health professionals. Shorter term, she will soon begin a family medicine residency at Inova Fairfax in Falls Church, VA.
“I’m a planner and had a very detailed plan for my fourth year at DMU, but the pandemic canceled my audition rotations,” she says. “I was able to do a rural family medicine rotation that I loved, which helped me decide I wanted to go into family medicine.”