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Jessica Puri, MPH (she/her)

PhD Candidate in the Health Sciences Integrated PhD Program

Jessica Puri, MPH (she/her)

I am inspired by the girls from my childhood who became child brides and mothers before they knew what the world had to offer.”

Jessica Puri is a PhD candidate in the Health Sciences Integrated PhD Program (HSIP) in the Feinberg School of Medicine. Her areas of research include global health, adverse childhood experiences and health equity. Jessica has done research in the past on issues like HIV, female genital cutting, cultural competence, malaria, and social determinants of health.

How would you describe your research and/or work to a non-academic audience?
I raise awareness about culturally accepted gender-based violence (specifically, female genital cutting) and prepare medical professionals to provide comprehensive care for survivors of the practice.

What do you find both rewarding and challenging about your research and/or work?
The emotional experience of researching, supporting survivors, and sharing my work can be rewarding when I see people move from precontemplation to action in the face of need. The challenge lies in realizing that some survivors will slip through the cracks, and while my efforts are not in vain, I am only at the beginning, and there is much more to do.

What is the biggest potential impact or implication of your work?
The biggest potential implication of my work is twofold. First, survivors of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) will be met with culturally competent medical professionals who provide a safe space for comprehensive care. Second, academia will continue to expand with new knowledge on the implications of the practice for multiple disciplines in medicine.

What books are on your bedside table?
Knowledge of The Holy by A.W. Tozer
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk

What inspires you?
I am inspired by the girls from my childhood who became child brides and mothers before they knew what the world had to offer. Contrary to popular belief, many girls in those conditions have not grown up to become weak and helpless women in need of intervention. They are fighting for themselves and the ones to come after them. They are not silent. We only need to listen.

What advice would you give your younger self or someone considering a similar path?
To my younger self: You are not an imposter. You did not trick anyone into bringing you to the table. You smiled, cracked jokes, worked hard, prayed, spoke out (sometimes), and threw your heart into every moment. That was enough to get you here. Stop doubting yourself and the Creator who continuously writes your story, and start living the best way you know how.

What are you most proud of in your career to date?
I'm probably most proud of my growth as a public speaker. Given the opportunities I've had to guest lecture across the country, there's joy in knowing that I can think on my feet and weave my sense of humor into the heaviest presentations. There's nothing more exciting for me than seeing an engaged listener have 'aha' moments.

Published: May 9, 2023

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