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From the Peace Corps to public health at Emory

By Martha Mckenzie | Public Health Magazine | Oct. 8, 2015

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Becca Egner 11MPH, on right with outstretched arms, and Paul Fleming 11MPH, directly behind Egner in a green sweater, pose with other Returning Peace Corps Volunteers.

Neither Becca Egner 11MPH nor Paul Fleming 11MPH planned on a career in public health when they signed up to be Peace Corps volunteers in the mid-2000s. Egner planned to become a doctor after her two-year stint in Burkina Faso, and Fleming was going to pursue public policy after his Nicaragua posting. But both fell in love with public health in the Peace Corps.

They were each considering other public health schools when Rollins offered them among the first Paul D. Coverdell fellowships to enhance the school's Masters International program.

"We were brought in to strengthen a program to prepare people who wanted to go into the Peace Corps and also to establish partnerships with local refugee settlement and service agencies in Clarkston to sort of mimic the Peace Corps experience," says Egner, who won the Emory Humanitarian Award in 2011. "It was an incredible opportunity to continue our Peace Corps experience."

Since those early days, the Peace Corps presence has grown dramatically at Rollins, and the Clarkston-Rollins connection has matured into a strong collaboration, with students working in eight organizations that serve the refugee community.

As for Egner and Fleming, they married in June 2013. Fleming earned a PhD in health behavior, and Egner got a degree in public health nursing. They are heading to California in November, where Fleming will do his postdoctoral work at the University of California San Diego, focusing on HIV in the Latino community. Egner plans to continue in practical public health nursing.