Discovery Spotlight

Kirsten Donato '17

Kirsten Donato '17 Bachelor's in Public Health

Kirsten Donato ’17 always knew she’d end up in the medical field. She just didn’t know in what role.

Growing up with a mother who underwent two back surgeries and who was later diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, coupled with a twin sister who experienced epilepsy at a very young age, Kirsten had a natural curiosity about medicine and human health.

“I wanted to be a doctor,” she recalls. That career path changed, however, once she enrolled at ACPHS. In her second year, she shifted to the B.S. program in Public Health and took a class called Seminar in Health Professions with Assistant Professor Allison M. Burton-Chase, Ph.D. That’s when things began to click.

“I started asking more questions, the ‘why questions’ about research and began probing my professors about what got them interested in the field,” she says. Kirsten’s first Public Health research project with Associate Professor Wendy Parker, Ph.D., validated her decision.

“I realized I could help people without being a clinician,” she says. “That was the moment I closed the door on being a doctor."

Currently, Kirsten is working toward her Master of Public Health through a joint program between Upstate Medical University and Syracuse University. She credits Dr. Parker with her decision to pursue her master’s at Upstate Medical. “Her colleague is a faculty member at the school and is now my advisor,” Kirsten explains.

After earning her master’s, Donato plans to enroll in a Ph.D. program and may one day follow in the footsteps of her mentors. “My [ACPHS] professors were so inspiring to me. If I could be like any one of them, if I could do for someone else what they did for me, the rest is history.”