Alexa Avitto

Alexa Avitto, MPH Class of '19


University of Pennsylvania, Master of Public Health Program, 2019

The College of New Jersey, Bachelor of Science in Biology, 2016

Favorite thing about Philly: The city’s pace


While majoring in biology during undergrad, one of Alexa’s professors asked if she had ever considered public health instead of a PhD. Until that moment, she hadn’t. She then went on to add a Public Health minor in during her senior year and she “loved it.”

“From then on, it has always just been this goal of taking a biology background and translating that into a more public health practical sort of career and education,” Alexa said.

Before applying to the MPH Program, she began working at Penn as a Research Specialist in the Perelman School of Medicine doing bench biology. Still, the thought of pursuing public health was on her mind. 

Penn offers staff and faculty a generous tuition benefit, which Alexa was able to take advantage of. However, other aspects of the MPH Program intrigued her, such as its small size and tight-knit community. 

“The location was great, too,” she said. “Penn has so many resources, and because it’s within the medical school, you have people from all different schools. I really liked the interdisciplinary approach the program has.”

She ultimately decided to stay in her full-time position while pursuing her MPH part-time. For prospective students interested in doing the same, she advises, “it’s actually a lot more feasible than people may suspect, depending on the nature of the job.”

Alexa, who choose the Global Health track, is very interested in neglected tropical disease. Through her Capstone, a culminating experience required for graduation from the MPH Program, she was able to explore this interest in her project, titled “Gone to the dogs: Modeling Guinea Worm Disease transmission dynamics in humans, copepods, and dogs.”

Although she sometimes feels pigeon-holed in her biology and infectious disease lens, she expresses that’s actually the “beauty of public health.”

“You don’t have to be a public health major in college, or biologist, or pre-med, or anything like that and so I think it’s cool to have relationships and friendships with people in this program,” Alexa said. “We all have this common interest, but we all come from these different backgrounds of film or dental or anything like that. That’s kind of unique to public health.”

Upon graduation from the program, she plans to take the tools she’s learned and make the switch to a more public health-orientated job. When she’s not busy doing research, Alexa enjoys spending time with her French bulldog, Rigatoni, and going to alternative and rock music concerts.


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