ABOUT: Candace is a full-time graduate student at the USF College of Public Health. She lives in Connecticut and studies 100% online– when she’s not watching her wonderful (goofy) 2-year-old son because he keeps her super busy. She loves to be in nature hiking and playing in the forest with him during their free time. She is currently wrapping up a poster project for M.O.M. online called “Birth Practices Through the Ages”. We aim to post those shortly here on the Museum of Motherhood website.
A LETTER FROM CANDACE: My academic background in pre-med biology and psychology ignited my fervor for humanistic truth, but hardly gratified my creative temperament, which I tended to with personal literature studies and philosophical musings. I found it difficult to communicate with others as I tried to defend science, because most people view the scientific method as a dusty, dry methodology where bias slips through the cracks, contaminating the entire theory. Few successfully connect the dots that were originally intended in liberal arts education- combining humanities with science to seek the truth and apply it to create a more humane world. Science is a philosophy. It is an art that takes the shape of reasoning. It is a process that only humans are gifted with. We can use the scientific method as a powerful tool but we can notice the cracks. We can see the light shining through them and we can think about what to do about it. We seal them when appropriate and other times it is more appropriate to let nature help reveal knowledge. To believe that science is inherently restrictive and dogmatic is to disempower your incredible capabilities as a human being. As a graduate student at the University of South Florida and a mom, I am proud to intern at the Museum of Motherhood, an organization dedicated to dissolving the systematic barriers of art and science and showcasing the beauty of the motherhood.
After receiving my Bachelor of Science degree from Central Connecticut State University, I desired to look beyond the atomic, molecular, and cellular levels of nature that I had been so focused on in that small campus in that small city, in that small state. I found microbiology so intriguing because it connected the unseen, powerful world of microbes to the superficial human perception of our environment. An elective course on Parasites & Human Disease introduced me to global health disparities and painted an image of health that extended beyond individual existence- public health. I knew that I found infectious disease interesting, I wanted to help people, and I wanted the impact to be big.
I see public health as a beautiful collaboration between humanities and science. That’s exactly what I began studying at the University of South Florida, where I am currently pursuing a Master of Public Health degree in global health, specializing in infection prevention. New insights into the life-course perspective melded with my life experiences more recently to direct my focus to maternal health, which is the foundation of a healthy society. This shift has been informed by my internship at the Museum of Motherhood.
I experienced profound growth and change when I became a mother in 2016 and had a somewhat strange struggle with postpartum depression. It was strange because I had previous knowledge about the condition from the outside-looking-in, and I found that to be valid. But I was also on the inside-looking-out, constantly discerning how I should feel with compassion and anger about what is expected of me, while thwacking myself simultaneously in self-pity and awareness that society and biology have more control over my mental health than I can fix alone. I struggled with breastfeeding until I found help in a local support group. I experienced, firsthand, the benefits of society. These women inspired me, and I found comfort in knowing that when I could log onto Facebook and find help from others who were also up nursing at 3 a.m. I enjoy reading about motherhood in both literature and in psychology and philosophy texts; I ruminate over how I can effectively improve the situation in our society where critique is abundant but action is stonewalled or misguided.
I also found inspiration in global public health leaders, like Hans Rosling, who brilliantly communicated complex data. Rosling used objective data to show that “extreme poverty is the worst health problem in the world today”, and that it should be prioritized over noncommunicable diseases, despite their prominence in numbers. No matter how developed or underdeveloped a country is, the proportion of noncommunicable diseases is ellipsing communicable diseases, yet life expectancies are paradoxically worse; this is an example of science as art- looking at the objective data in the context of our dynamic globe. Disparities associated with maternal and child mortality remains an enormous challenge in nearly all countries, especially the United States, where life-expectancy at birth is the lowest and the maternal and infant mortality rate is the highest of almost all developed countries. Despite non communicable diseases traditionally signaling long-life and high economic status, life expectancies and health outcomes are worse because child mortality rates are increasing due to communicable diseases, malnutrition and lack of maternal services. Maternal health is the foundation of a healthy society.