Okechukwu Erinne was born and raised in Nigeria, West Africa and trained as a physician, working in the hospital and private practice.
“Honestly, I was a little bored with seeing the same thing every day in general practice medicine and thought I’d like to study public health so I could have a larger impact on policy and population health in my country and elsewhere," said Erinne, "I looked at programs in the US and was able to get some funding to study at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. After completing my MPH, I moved to Seattle where I had family living and got a job working in cancer research.”
Erinne, or “Oke” as he’s called, always planned to focus on epidemiology and infectious disease because that was most needed in Nigeria. He had done some work with HIV and figured that would be the route he took, but his job working in cancer research opened up a field of opportunities and interests leading him to apply for PhD programs in public health.
“I applied to UTHealth and picked the Brownsville campus because it looked like they were doing some interesting research, and I had read about Dr. Joseph McCormick and his work in Africa. Just a few days after submitting my application, I got a call from Brownsville, and the faculty there have really welcomed me ever since.
Erinne didn’t even really know where Brownsville was located until he was in Houston visiting the main campus to see about funding for his PhD program.
“I put Brownsville into my GPS and realized it was a good five hour drive south of Houston!”
Erinne was offered a Graduate Assistant position and has been working mostly with local data from the Cameron County Cohort Study focused on COVID-19.
“It’s definitely quieter here than other cities I’ve lived in and I enjoy the peace and lack of traffic. I can just focus on my work and studies. People are friendly and it’s easy to interact with the faculty and staff.”
Erinne hopes to remain in research and become a principle investigator, studying cancer or chronic disease. He finds the intersection of chronic and infectious disease interesting and is enjoying his time on the Brownsville campus, hoping to learn and contribute as much as he can.