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Student Spotlight: Aaliyah Bowden

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Just a few weeks into her internship at the Duke Neurology Department, Aaliyah Bowden is already deeply immersed in neurology, having interviewed researchers, copyedited dozens of pages of documents, and researched neuromuscular diseases and other conditions. For our next “Spotlight” interview, the rising junior discusses her time at the Department so far,  how her interests in health policy and public health complement her interests in communication, and her plans for the future.

What are your current responsibilities within the Neurology Department? What does a typical day for you look like?
I am a Duke intern here at neurology for the summer working underneath Will Alexander.  My job consists of copyediting several publications from the weekly newsletters that are sent out, copyediting Duke Neurology’s website, and following Neurology’s mission of collaborating with clinicians and trainees that do not just work in Neurology but throughout the School of Medicine. A typical day for me begins with researching various neurodegenerative diseases and disorders to simply find out more about how the brain works and what happens when there is an abnormality in the brain. During the day, I also review and copyedit any documents that are sent my way along with interview clinicians, and trainees for the faculty and staff Spotlight interviews.

In addition to communications, you’re also interested in health policy and public health. What interests you the most about each of these areas?
I am currently a junior mass communication student at North Carolina Central University however, I take a huge interest in health policy and public health. I am mostly interested in learning about health disparities and the lack of education or resources an individual may have access to. With health policy, I am really interested in how some patients are diagnosed with diseases and how their health insurance may not pay for their medical bills or medication; so I definitely want to advocate for these individuals and possibly explore reasonable solutions of how they can be guaranteed health care. When it comes to public health, I want to learn more about epidemics and pandemics that can affect a community of people and how that affects their access to clean water and health care. I am also interested in exploring health disparities among underrepresented populations, especially African Americans and how to change stigma of mental illnesses within the black community.

What’s been the biggest surprise for you about Duke? What’s been the biggest surprise for you about the Neurology Department?
I really love how Duke is so versatile. Duke offers education in several areas like engineering, health policy, health, business, and even law school. Whenever someone mentions something about Duke, it is mostly linked to either sports or health care, but Duke offers so much more than just that. There are so many areas you can grow here at Duke through their outstanding programs. I was so amazed by how the Neurology Department is dedicated to helping patients with neurodegenerative disease and how they work endlessly to find treatments and cures for strokes, ALS, traumatic brain injuries, and other brain disorders. I admire how they have Grand Rounds every week and annual conferences to better understand the factors that can contribute to a person having a mental illness. Duke Neurology faculty, staff, clinicians, and trainees are dedicated to the well being of patients with neurodegenerative diseases and won’t stop until they find a cure.

If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?
If I could have any job in the world it would be a medical journalist. I aspire to educate the public about health disparities in the United States and raise awareness for diseases that are taboo today such as mental illnesses, abortion, opioid crisis, and the consumption of marijuana among millennials. I’m interested in doing research in the consumption of drugs, specifically marijuana and the long-term effects it has on the brain and one’s behavior. I really want to raise awareness for smoking and the danger additives in drugs can have on an individual long term.

Do you have any summer plans for after you complete your internship?
Shortly after completing my internship at Duke Neurology, I will be starting my junior year at North Carolina Central University (NCCU) and focused on being the co-editor for the online campus newspaper known as Campus Echo. I plan on taking everything I learned here at Neurology and correlating that with mass communication. Within the next few months, I plan on researching possible careers I can pursue within communication and health following graduation in 2021.

What other passions or hobbies do you have outside of the Department?
I really enjoy reading and writing. I’m currently reading Becoming by Michelle Obama whenever I have time outside of my demanding schedule. I enjoy playing tennis and bowling and scrolling on Pinterest. I also love spending time with my family. I have an older sister who attends Virginia State University and my Mom who is a CTE (Career Technical and Education) Coordinator for two local high schools.

Bowden, left, enjoys some family time with her sister and mother.