by Meredith Dault
May 3, 2011
To describe Casey Hurrell as being excited about her research would probably be an understatement. Though she’s been running at full-tilt since beginning her MA in History in September 2010, her life doesn’t look like it will be slowing down anytime soon -- and that’s just fine with her. “It’s definitely a lot of work, and it’s stressful to get it all done, on time, and with the quality you want,” she explains “but because I’m so passionate it doesn’t feel like work!”
Hurrell is specializing in the history of public health, and is particularly drawn to issues around maternal and child health. She will be focusing her Major Research Project (MRP) on vaccination campaigns around pandemics -- everything from 1918‘s outbreak of Spanish Influenza, to the more recent outbreak of H1N1. She is particularly interested in looking at the way vaccination campaigns have historically been targeted at children and other at-risk groups.
“I’ve always been interested in women’s and children’s health,” says Hurrell, who recently earned an undergraduate degree in history from Carleton University. “I think everyone likes babies, and I think societies are always interested in safeguarding youth. So my opinion is that you can get a clear idea of the direction that medicine is going in by looking at how it ensures the health of future generations.”
Hurrell says she is particularly drawn to looking at how public policy is informed by the dominant medical discourse. “There is a disconnect between what policy makers do, versus the day-to-day of doctors, gynecologists and obstetricians,” she explains. “The views of medical professionals aren’t always taken into account (when policies are being drawn up).”
Because her degree program is only a year long, Hurrell has had to stay focused for the duration. “It’s super-fast,” she laughs. “The one year Master’s program is like a marathon compressed into the time of a sprint!” But Hurrell, who is supervised by Dr. Sandra den Otter, has her eye closely trained on the finish line: she’s starting her PhD at Queen’s in September and she knows there’s a lot to do before that begins. Fortunately, she feels at ease when she is sequestered away with her research. “Being in an archive doesn’t feel like work,” she says with a laugh, enthusiastically describing the experience of spending six hours at a time sifting through old documents.
Hurrell had planned to spend the summer writing her MRP -- but all that changed after she learned she had been accepted into a special summer research program at Columbia University in New York City. The Hertog Global Strategy Initiative is a 12-week summer program wherein a select number of experts and students participate in collaborative research around a particular foreign policy issue, all while engaging with historical analysis.
“They only invite 15 people worldwide,” says Hurrell, explaining that the group is made up of undergrad and graduate students, along with specialized faculty. “And the cool thing for me is that this year, the subject is the management of global public health and pandemics.” Though Hurrell knew her research and interests would be a perfect fit in the program, she says she never thought she would actually be accepted into the program. “I’m still in shock,” she adds with a laugh. “I’ve known for two weeks already and it still hasn’t sunk in. I mean, I’m just this girl from Canada -- a lot of the other applicants are from Ivy League schools in the States!”
Though she’s looking forward to spending the summer in New York City, Hurrell says she will have to complete her MRP in a few tights weeks before her PhD program ramps up in September. “I’ll have to work like a madwoman,” she says, not looking the least bit worried. After all, she’s doing what she loves best.