About Abhishek Sharma
When he’s asked about his time in Russell Sage College’s Public Health program, Abhishek Sharma is quick to acknowledge two people who have positively influenced his experience.
The first is his father, Raju Sharma, who earned his bachelor’s degree in Nursing at Sage and inspired Abhi’s interest in public health.
“He advocated for Sage,” said Abhi, who transferred from a large state university. “He said, ‘You know, this is the perfect place for you as it was for me.’”
The other person is Associate Professor of Public Health Dayna Maniccia. “She’s always been there for me, when I asked for her support,” Abhi continued. “She genuinely cares to help.”
While his father and professor have provided invaluable life advice and career guidance, Abhi himself deserves credit for putting in the time and effort to take advantage of resume-boosting opportunities on and near Sage’s Albany campus.
Abhi is a patient care associate at nearby Albany Medical Center, a COVID-19 contact tracer and case investigator with the New York State Department of Health and a data collector for a nationwide study of mask-wearing on college campuses.
He said these roles — his work with the Department of Health and the mask-wearing study in particular — are allowing him to apply his Public Health coursework to the professional world.
As a contact tracer and case investigator, he needs to build trust and communicate effectively — skills that his education has emphasized. (As a contact tracer, he notifies and advises individuals who have been exposed to COVID. As an investigator, he interviews people with a confirmed COVID diagnosis, to identify places they have visited and people they have had contact with.)
He’s also demonstrated his ability to keep up with the pace.
“There’s always something new to learn,” he said. “It’s rapidly changing and we have to adapt very quickly.”
The data collection work is part of the Mask Adherence and Surveillance at Colleges and Universities Project.
Known by the acronym MASCUP! and affiliated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the project places trained data collectors like Abhi at various campus locations, to record observations about whether passersby are wearing masks at all, wearing masks correctly, and what kind of masks are in use.
“Those details help us analyze for the future any steps that may be necessary to make a safer environment or to promote better health,” said Abhi.
Abhi’s goal is to build a career that combines public health communications and policy. He said this year — his junior year — has helped him begin to make the transition from an academic to a professional setting.
“I’m thankful that I was able to do both at the same time,” he said, “where this is the coursework and this is the work that I’m dealing with on the job. I can put those together and know how I can address this best to cause the most positive changes.”
“And that’s what public health is, that’s what Professor Maniccia has taught us,” he continued, “that we have the power to change.”