Student Spotlight

Leo Shih

Meet Leo Shih, a student in the Global Health Program.

Leo Shih

Leo Shih

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you learned about Georgetown.

My name is Leo Shih, and I’m a sophomore with a major in Global Health and a minor in Religion, Ethics, and World Affairs. I was born in Taiwan, but grew up in Lubbock, Texas. Like many other politics-obsessed high schoolers, I learned about Georgetown through the Aaron Sorkin show “The West Wing.”

What drew you to global health and to Georgetown’s Bachelor’s in Global Health program particularly?

I was drawn to global health because of the interdisciplinary nature of the field; it allowed me to combine my interests in international affairs and public health in a way that can directly impact the lives of the least fortunate among us. The work of Dr. Paul Farmer, a co-founder of Partners in Health and a renowned medical anthropologist, was particularly inspiring.

I was drawn to Georgetown’s Bachelor’s in Global Health specifically because of the practice-based nature of the curriculum and the opportunities it presents for learning by doing, such as the Senior Year Practicum Abroad. Additionally, the flexible nature of the program compared to other School of Health programs, especially for non-premed students, works really well for students such as myself, who want to pursue Georgetown specialties like the Religion, Ethics, and World Affairs minor while building a core skillset in global health practice.

How have you enjoyed the program and Georgetown?

Georgetown, and particularly the Global Health program, have been extraordinarily supportive communities. Coming to DC from the South Plains of the Texas Panhandle was a pretty big culture shock, and the relationships I built among my peers and with faculty were essential in helping me overcome those challenges. Dr. Bouey and Dean Floyd were especially understanding and supportive as I navigated the challenges of my first year.

I absolutely love being a Hoya. Being at Georgetown means living a constant stream of amazing experiences; in less than two years here, I’ve been to a mass with the President of the United States, shaken hands with Pete Buttigieg, and been to an evening social at the Embassy of Morocco; I’ll be meeting Dr. Fauci through a seminar class I’m taking this semester. And of course, nothing can beat the ability to casually go for a run to the Washington Monument or catch a show at the National Symphony with Student Rush tickets.

Have you had recent global health-related travel abroad or outside of DC, or will you soon? If so, how has the program influenced your travel plans?

While I have not yet had the opportunity to travel abroad for global health work, I have funding through the Laidlaw Scholarship to go abroad and work on a project impacting global health this summer. At the moment, I’m still making connections and investigating opportunities; there’s a ton of options that Georgetown makes possible, from doing fieldwork in Guinea to working on outbreak response modeling with a team at Cambridge.

What other activities and/or research have you done at Georgetown?

My primary co-curricular activity here at Georgetown is my work as a research assistant at the Carlson Lab in the Center for Global Health Science and Security. I initially joined the lab through the Laidlaw Leadership and Research Scholarship program, investigating the impacts of climate change on bacterial dysentery in Texas. This is a first-of-its-kind study looking at the effects of increased temperature and precipitation on a neglected disease in the United States, with real-world impact for public health authorities back home. Dr. Carlson is a terrific research mentor, and I’ve found an amazing group of people in our research group.

I am also involved with the Georgetown chapter of Alpha Phi Omega, a community service fraternity in the Center for Social Justice that ties into my Scouting background and provides me with opportunities to serve our DC community. I currently serve as New Sibling at Large, supporting the administration of the fraternity and working on reviving our award-winning service project with a local Boy Scout troop. Finally, I sing tenor with the Contemporary Choir of Georgetown Music Ministry and I also help to plan the Lunar New Year Mass each year. We perform at masses in Dahlgren Chapel every week, and are currently preparing to perform at the Vatican in May 2024.

How do you think Georgetown is preparing you for your career?

The main way Georgetown is preparing me for my career is simply broadening my horizons and showing me possibilities that I never knew existed. My research work, the connections I’ve made through peer mentors and professors, and the ideas I’m exposed to through my classes and co-curricular activities have changed the way I think about the world, and I can’t wait to see how I grow in the two years I have left here.

What are your plans after Georgetown?

Right now, I don’t have a solid plan for what I’ll do after Georgetown. There are just too many options at the moment. However, I’m thinking about applying for a few graduate-study scholarships like the Fulbright and Truman scholarships, with the ultimate goal of going to graduate school for epidemiology and perhaps international affairs. My dream job would be a role at the intersections of epidemiology and international health policy, such as working as a CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service officer overseas.

global health student stories