Erica Washington standing in front of Bea Fields House

Why I Volunteer for Tulane

Tulane’s synonymity with New Orleans is what drew me to the university. Hurricane Katrina overwhelmed the Gulf region when I was an undergraduate senior at LSU in Baton Rouge. Although I was not directly affected by the storm, I saw the struggles that many of my friends and classmates endured as they sought to rebuild their homes with their families in a time of immense uncertainty that would forever reshape their lives.

While I was able to volunteer with my sorority in Baton Rouge to assist with those who were affected, I felt that the real work to be done was in New Orleans.

After completing my undergraduate degree, I researched Tulane and admired its history as an institution that sought to improve health outcomes in New Orleans. Public health felt like the niche for me, and thanks to Therese Carter and other welcoming staff at the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, I found a home in the Department of Epidemiology.

School of Public Health epidemiology professors truly brought public health action and innovation to our classrooms. My adviser, Jeanette Gustat, mobilized our survey methods class to conduct sampling of pedestrian safety in order to describe how walkable the city’s busy urban streets are. Additionally, Patti Kissinger and Emily Harville utilized students to look at migrant worker health and maternal and child health, respectively. In addition to epidemiology courses, I was able to participate in a life-changing trip to China to study health systems management wherein rural, migrant and urban health concepts were taught.

The three pillars of the Tulane Alumni Association’s mission statement are to connect alumni, foster loyalty to the university, and enhance the lifelong Tulane experience. My personal connections started with my classroom experience and were enhanced through connections made through my classmates and the larger Tulane community. The transition to working in applied epidemiology was made seamless by Tulane alumni who hired me and staff who stayed connected with me through my professional development and beyond.

My Tulane experience started from the moment I set foot on the downtown campus and has been shaped through my 10 years after graduation. While our Tulanian stories may be different in origin, we are forever connected through our identity: an identity that speaks to the devotion we have to the university and carrying our alma mater’s spirit forth faithfully.

Erica Washington is president of the Tulane Alumni Association for 2019-20. She’s served in other TAA volunteer positions, including president-elect, vice president and co-chair of the student outreach committee, since 2016. Her professional job is with the Louisiana Department of Health as program coordinator for healthcare-associated infections and antibiotic resistance.

Above photo: Erica Washington (by Paula Burch-Celentano)