University of Pennsylvania, Master of Public Health Program, 2020—expected
University of Pennsylvania, Bachelor of Arts in Health and Societies, 2018
Delaware Technical Community College, Associate of Applied Science in Health Information Management
Favorite thing about Philly: The Eagles
Vernell didn’t take the traditional route toward an MPH.
“I was pigeon-holed in a career of medical billing and coding and decided to go back to school later in life,” he said. “The journey has been very inspiring.”
After earning his undergraduate degree at Penn, he decided to stay to pursue his MPH full-time. At first, Vernell was hesitant because Penn has an MPH program rather than its own school dedicated to public health. However, he has since found that this has been to his advantage.
The program, “draws on so many different disciplines and I think that’s what makes it unique,” he said. “I think Penn is moving forward and I like the part that we’re actually enrolled in the Perelman School of Medicine because I get a lot of emails and opportunities.”
Additionally, Vernell, who is on the generalist MPH track, finds the diverse faculty to be the most rewarding part of the program. In particular, he has enjoyed working with the nursing faculty, especially Dr. Anne Teitelman, who taught his Designing Interventions to Promote Health and Reduce Health Disparities course.
Vernell and Dr. Teitelman have similar research interests in pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which is when individuals at risk of HIV take a daily medication to lower the chances of getting infected. He first gained knowledge of PrEP when he interned at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia during undergrad. While there, he says he learned what public health is really about while researching awareness of PrEP in vulnerable populations.
“A lot of my work in [Dr. Teitelman’s class] has been on designing an intervention on PrEP,” he explained. “Her vision and her aims are aligned with mine and she’s introduced me to some people that can help me with my capstone.”
Outside of classes and his job as an Operational Graduate Assistant in Sansom Place Complex (two on-campus apartment-style highrises for graduate students), Vernell enjoys jazz, photography, watching the Eagles play, and spending time with his younger brother.