Studying public health reinforced Donovan Dennis' decision to apply for medical school in hopes of becoming a physician. Inspired by the work of advocates and public health professionals in Flint during the water crisis, he sought out Michigan State University's unique MD and MPH programs. Connecting with community members and fellow students and professors fuels his motivation for becoming a future doctor. 

Learn more about Donovan's journey as a dual enrolled MPH/MD student in this Q&A. 

Meet Donovan Dennis, Michigan State University Master of Public Health student. After recieving his BA in Public Health from Brown University, he went on to become a dual enrolled medical student pursuing his MPH and MD simultaneouly. Dennis currently works as a Teacher's Assistant for the ABLE (Advanced Baccalaureate Learning Experience) pipeline program for matriculation to the MSU College of Human Medicine MD program. 

Why are you pursuing a public health degree?
Switching from engineering to public health was one of the most important decisions I made in undergrad. In public health, I found a home and gained an understanding of concepts like social determinants of health and their effect on community health, which informed my interest in medicine. Public health ultimately reinforced my desire to study medicine and, in my pursuit to become a competent physician, I endeavored to spend additional time understanding how health care systems, policy and research affect health outcomes. To me, public health naturally compliments medicine. As such, public health, prevention and equity will be the lens through which I study and apply medicine to my daily practice.

What does being a Michigan State Spartan mean to you?
Being a Michigan State Spartan to me means being a part of global community that values learning, growth, and excellence while fighting for something meaningful for the good of society.

Who or what has been your biggest inspiration during your MPH journey? 
Back in undergrad when I was pursuing a bachelor's in public health, I was closely following the events of the Flint water crisis. I remember being in awe of Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, as both a pediatrician and activist. Now, as an MD/MPH candidate at MSU, with strong interest in pediatric health, I see myself finding passion and fulfillment in doing similar community-minded work for children and families, regardless of what I specialize in. As I brainstorm ideas and narrow my focus for my MPH practicum, I know that whatever I study will ultimately form a link with advocating for healthy and happy children. Serving as both a public health and medical advocate--just like Dr. Mona--is a serious goal of mine and I hope to connect with her in the future as I learn and grow as a community health advocate and scholar.

What professional or educational accomplishment are you most proud of?
I am most proud of a group project that I co-led with two other students in my undergrad for my senior year capstone project. In this project, that took place during the Flint water crisis, my colleagues and I raised over 2,000 water bottles for community members in Flint while connecting with key community organizations and politicians to interview residents and amplify their narratives in the form of a student-led documentary.

What has been the most influential moment of your experience thus far?
Joining the SAB, Student Advisory Board, has been critical for helping me network with my fellow MPH students and connect with department faculty. These connections have helped me better visualize what a career in public health could look like for me, and assisted me in focusing my public health research and advocacy interests.

How do you plan to use your public health education after graduating? 
After graduation, medical school residency will most likely be my next step. During or after residency, I aim to work with whatever community I reside in at that point in my career to develop a long-term community health initiative or educational organization that incorporates the voices and needs of locals. This will most likely relate to pediatric health, and will include active participation and planning from community members.

What do you like to do outside of work and schoolwork?
Outside of work and class, I love practicing yoga. I recently tried hot yoga and found it very restorative. Another activity I thoroughly enjoy is practicing Capoeira, an afro-Brazilian form of dance and martial arts. I started in undergrad, due to inspiration from video games (Tekken, if anyone knows!), and really connected with the history, intention and movement behind it.

Anything else you would like to add?


October 17, 2022