Curating a passion for research: Professor Carrie Dolan talks Peace Corp experience, mentoring students in public health

0
331
Dolan started a new research lab within the Global Research Institute called Ignite, which studies how public health resources are allocated internationally. COURTESY IMAGE / Carrie Dolan

Ever since she first started going on yearly scuba trips as a child, College of William and Mary professor of kinesiology and health sciences Carrie Dolan has been making waves in both life and her academic career. Whether it be through one of her classes or through one of her many active research projects, Dolan has made a significant impact on campus. Exemplifying this impact, Dolan made headlines earlier this year for her induction into the Explorer’s Club at the highest level as a fellow.   

While her commitment to research is showcased in the various research labs she leads around campus, Dolan’s love for research was first sparked during her time spent in the Peace Corps in Jamaica. There Dolan had the opportunity to plan the allocation of around $20,000 from the German Development Bank. This task inspired her to think more about epidemiology and consider the systematic allocation of public health resources, especially within the health services field.  

“The peace corps was where I learned the value of quantitative methods and thinking about systematically allocating our public health resources,” Dolan said. “My peace corps project was to figure out how to spend about twenty thousand dollars from the German Development Bank, and so it’s really where I got interested in doing epidemiology. After the Peace Corp I went back and did epidemiology as a masters at Tulane.”

When she returned to the United States, Dolan pursued her newfound interest by receiving a Master’s degree in Epidemiology from Tulane University in New Orleans. Following that initial stint in academia, Dolan decided to continue her education by seeking out a Ph.D. 

“I wanted a seat at the table to talk about how resources are allocated, so I looked for a Ph.D. program that had a strong economics core,” Dolan said.

“I wanted a seat at the table to talk about how resources are allocated, so I looked for a Ph.D. program that had a strong economics core,” Dolan said.  

Dolan decided to attend Virginia Commonwealth University, where she graduated with a doctorate in Healthcare Policy and Research in 2017. Her involvement in research at the College began during her time at VCU, where she began to work with AidData. 

Dolan demonstrates her passion for working with students by enthusiastically  discussing her research projects with her classes. She teaches several classes in the Kinesiology and Health Sciences department and identified her two favorite courses as Health Policy and Foundations of Epidemiology. She especially treasures her Healthy Policy class, as she says it provides her students with hands-on experience building their knowledge, skills, and abilities. While her Foundations of Epidemiology class is much larger, Dolan enjoys working with students who are learning about completely new topics and subjects in a more lecture-style setting as well. 

“I really like my health policy class because it’s small and hands on,” said Dolan. “In that class we build knowledge skills and abilities … I also like my epidemiology class because it’s new content for a lot of people.  That’s a larger class, and I don’t get to know the students as well as the smaller classes which I really like.  But I think it’s exciting to watch student learn about something that they didn’t know about yet.”

Outside of the classroom, Dolan works as an advisor to the College’s SOMOS and Medical Aid Nicaragua: Outreach Scholarship research projects and recently started Ignite, a new research lab under the umbrella of the Global Research Institute. Ignite uses research to address allocating public health resources in the most efficient and fair way possible. Ignite’s research closely follows Dolan’s own passions and previous research through Ignites efforts to make resource allocation more effective through specific targeting of resources.   

“William and Mary students in particular are willing to try new things and are independent learners and thinkers in a lot of ways, so they bring a lot of new insight to my research,” Dolan said.  

Dolan’s recent induction into the Explorer’s Club this August is an especially notable milestone in her career because of the extensive professional and research opportunities it brings to the table.  Being inducted as a fellow is a mark of a person’s commitment to research, particularly in the field of geographical exploration or a related field. Joining the Explorer’s Club as a fellow not only highlights Dolan’s achievements in her research, but also adds her to the ranks of such impressive Explorer’s Club members as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Regardless, Dolan is less focused on the prestige of the organization and is instead occupied with the organization’s opportunities for professional and research development. 

“I think that is going to be really interesting in terms when I meet people with different backgrounds and who are doing field research all around the world … I think it’s going to be really intellectually stimulating because it’s not all people who are doing the same kind of work I do,” Dolan said.

“I think that is going to be really interesting in terms when I meet people with different backgrounds and who are doing field research all around the world … I think it’s going to be really intellectually stimulating because it’s not all people who are doing the same kind of work I do,” Dolan said. 

Dolan emphasizes that not only have connections with students made her experience with the College special;  encounters with professors have too.  Dolan credits her collaborative work with associate professor of economics Ariel BinYashay with helping her learn and work more with using quantitative methods in her research, as well as her efforts with retired sociology professor David Aday, Jr. with helping her to focus on research questions in a structured, interdisciplinary effort. This unique approach to research has helped hone Dolan’s research on campus. 

“He really helped me to think about questions from a structural and organizational perspective and incorporating different disciplines into the way I think about the research I do,” Dolan said.

From teaching classes and working on various research projects, Dolan’s large impacts on this campus are clear. Following important accomplishments like her induction into the Explorer’s Club and the spark of her new research lab, Dolan is excited for the future opportunities that lie ahead.