What do swimming, Harvard, UVA, and Public Health Sciences have in common? That would be Jaycee Yegher! Jaycee spent her last year of NCAA eligibility swimming for UVA’s team as a student in the Master of Public Health degree program.
Jaycee earned her bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in History of Science and Global Health and Health Policy. After graduating in 2021, Jaycee still had a year of NCAA sports eligibility remaining because the Ivy League had suspended all athletic program participation in early 2020 with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. While an undergraduate, she was interested in quantitative research skills and research into societal issues. Then, as the pandemic progressed, Jaycee became interested in Public Health to understand how society could be better prepared for future health emergencies such as pandemics. Jaycee shared, “With family in Maryland, UVA was the perfect choice for graduate school since it was closer to home.”
UVA’s swim team also became Jaycee’s family and welcomed her with open arms, supporting her to compete while she also focused on her graduate studies. She remarked, “I felt right at home with the team in their meetings, shared meals, and working toward the common goal of the national championships.”
During the swim season, Jaycee won the 100m and 200m breaststroke at the Cavalier Invite and placed sixth in the 100m breaststroke at the Tennessee Invitational. “I was so excited to be able to participate in the Olympic qualifying trials with the UVA team and then cheer them on!” she exclaimed. Although she did not qualify for the US team, five of her UVA teammates made it to the US Olympic team. Jaycee and the rest of her team achieved their common goal–UVA’s national champion women’s swimming and diving team were honored on Monday, June 12 on the White House lawn in a ceremony called “College Athlete Day” that recognized NCAA champions from the 2022-23 academic year.
Jaycee said attending team practice on the undergraduate schedule was sometimes difficult, but the coaches worked with her graduate class schedule and commitments. “My teammates were also curious about graduate school and what I was studying, so I was able to share different experiences and help mentor some of the undergraduates,” she said with satisfaction.
In the Public Health program, Jaycee focused on Research in Practice for Global Health. She developed hands-on experience working with large population health datasets. She noted, “The program really challenged me, but that was good because I learned so much! The title of my project was ‘The Use of Internet-based Sources of U.S. Mortality Data in Public Health Surveillance: A SAS and ArcGIS Investigation’. The topic was about using the internet to monitor mortality status of individuals and trends in populations. Loss-to-follow-up is a significant impediment to the conduct of chronic disease cohort research, and government data sources, while accurate, are too slow. Thus, some researchers have turned to the internet for information such as online obituaries to verify mortality status, so I analyzed this process using SAS and ArcGIS.”
Jaycee was also able to combine her love of swimming and passion for public health through working with the Charlottesville Tulips this summer. She explained, “I taught swim lessons to Afghani refugee women at Frys Springs Beach Club. I’m very passionate about drowning prevention both personally as a swimmer and as part of a larger public health issue. It was so fun to teach the lessons, and I hope more people get involved!”
With her newly earned degree, a consulting firm in Washington, DC hired Jaycee. In her new position, she will utilize Healthcare Disparities data, so she will use much of what she learned at UVA such as the SQL programming language. Jaycee summarized, “In Health Informatics, we learned how to de-identify and randomize data sets, and that is very similar to what I will be doing in my new job. What I learned at UVA married well with my undergraduate studies. It was a merger of science and humanities that provides the perfect preparation for me for new opportunities in healthcare.”