Atlanta: The Land of the CDC and MLK

Marcy Schaeffer – 1st year MPH Biostatistics student

I came to Rollins without ever having been to Rollins, Atlanta, Georgia, or even the South.  My introduction to the area was via Google maps.  I remember looking at the satellite view on my laptop in Los Angeles, and thinking, “Wow, Atlanta has a lot of trees, I like that, and wow, the CDC is really close to Rollins.”  Rolling into Atlanta after a 2,200 mile drive from California, I realized Google maps was darn right.  Not only is Atlanta’s beautiful skyline wrapped in blankets of trees (which happen to be accessible parks like Piedmont Park), perfectly seen from the upper floors of Rollins and the subject of many of my Instagram posts, but if you go to the ground level of Rollins and walk across the street – literally across a two lane street – you’re at the CDC.  THE Center for Disease Control. OMG. As a public health student, nothing was more exciting, except maybe that one time I was in the White House the same time as President Obama.  And then, in the middle of Arkansas on my cross country adventure, I was offered an interview at THE CDC. Dream come true, right?!

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Atlanta skyline from the Claudia Nance Rollins building

Anyways, as an Epidemiology Assistant at the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities since October (when the CDC fiscal year starts), I’ve not only been helping with a new national study looking at maternal exposures and birth defects, but I’ve been in the same room or same meeting with Dr. Frieden (aka Director of the CDC) on more than one occasion.  I also got to witness the government shutdown from the front lines as a federal employee.  Talk about memorable and great learning experiences…and most of this happened during my first semester of graduate school.

But, wait. Atlanta isn’t just home to the CDC.  It’s also the home of CNN (holla Sunjay Gupta), the 1996 Summer Olympics, and the birthplace of Martin Luther King, Jr.  When MLK day rolled around this year, my friend and I just knew that spending the day in the city, rather than curled up in our beds, would be worth it – and boy were we right.  I googled MLK day the night before (obviously I depend on Google for a lot of things) and saw that there was going to be commemorative ceremony at Ebenezer Baptist Church.  So on MLK Day, my friend and I ventured less than 10 miles to the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood, a historic spot and also one of my favorites.  We walked into a huge church with standing room only, and listened to a couple hours of inspiring and empowering words from not only MLK’s descendants but also the mayor of Atlanta and the governor of Georgia among others.  I’ve never been in a room so vibrant and so passionate for change.  I kept reminding myself that not only was I in the same room as these amazing people, but that I was in Atlanta.  It’s moments like these that make me very appreciative to call the ATL/Hotlanta/Atlanta my new home.

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MLK mural in Atlanta, GA
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