Student Spotlight: Erika Ludden


Academic advisor Catherine Yackey (Academic Magnet High School), Erika Ludden and Megan Weis following Erika’s thesis defense.

In our Student Spotlight feature, students working with or honored by the Institute are highlighted. Erika Ludden is student who was recently mentored by Megan Weis for her thesis, “Expanding the World’s Blue Zones Through Addition Of Blue Zones to the High School Health Education Curriculum in North Charleston,” at Academic Magnet High School.  

Hometown: Charleston, South Carolina

School: Academic Magnet High School

Expected Graduation: 2017

How did you become interested in public health/medicine?

I have grown up with both of my parents being in the health care field. My mother is a cancer researcher and my father is a physician. I have a long history in my family of cancer and have always wanted to grow up to facilitate care and if possible cures for individuals struggling with deteriorating health.

At school, beginning my junior year I began my thesis project. Searching for inspiration, I listened to NPR everyday and constantly refreshed the news looking for a topic I could be passionate about. What caught my attention was the presence of health disparities in today’s age and in economically successful areas like America. This phenomenon inspired me to do research to level the playing field for access to health.

What areas of public health/medicine are you most interested in and why?

I am interested in researching preventative measures toward health disparities to bridge the gap between various socioeconomic statuses as I strongly believe that class should not effect health. I advocate that education is the foundation to preventing negative health outcomes. Health is a lifelong pursuit, and raising awareness to the youth allows them to have the ability to make educated choices.

What are your future plans?

Next year, I intend to go to college either at Emory University, Tulane University or Clemson University. I am on track to double major in biology and public health in order to provide myself with a scientific basis to pursue a profession in public health.

If you didn’t focus your thesis on public health, what would have studied and why?

If my thesis project were not centered on public health, I would have studied alternative methods to teaching math to high school students.

Who do you consider your mentor/greatest inspiration and why?

My mentor for my thesis project Dr. Weis throughout the past year has provided me with support and resources for success to allow me to enhance my thesis and make a difference in the community. Last year, she took me to the South Carolina Public Health Association conference, which built my passion for public health and solidified it as a career goal for myself.

When you aren’t studying, what are your favorite activities?

Outside of school, I am a member of my school’s track and field team where I am a sprinter and hurdler. Additionally, I am a crewmember on the sailing team where I participate in regattas. On the weekends, I work as a waitress at a local restaurant. I always make time for my family and friends.

Anything else you want to share or highlight?  Any scholastic/athletic/volunteer activities or recognitions? 

During the school year, I tutor children afterschool at a local after school program for under privilege youth. In this program, I have learned compassion and developed a caring for raising that standard of education in low-income areas.

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