My First Assignment

On the second day of class, Dr. Lynn told us the importance of knowing everyone in the department and having them know us. Therefore, he assigned us to go out and introduce ourselves to all of the faculty members we had not met. I instantly knew the first person I would reach out to; Dr. Bill Dressler. I would not have been in this program had I not stumbled upon his work in searching for programs specializing in my research interest (health disparities). In a frantic attempt to figure out who was studying health disparities, I went into JSTOR and typed in “health inequalities”. An article written by Dr. Dressler was one of the first results. In the article, he noted that too few anthropologists were doing this kind of research. I immediately checked what school he was at and added Alabama to my list of schools. Over time, as I read article after article on health disparities, his name would almost always be mentioned. This was the summer of 2014. By December of 2014, I was at the AAA conference in DC. My undergraduate professor, Dr. Rachel Caspari, knew of my interests and happened to know Lance Gravlee from when he did his post-doc at Michigan. She arranged lunch in DC with the three of us (I am still amazed at how much she goes above and beyond for her students). It was a great experience, and we briefly discussed his work with Dr. Dressler. Dr. Gravlee also mentioned that Dr. Dressler was a mentor of his. Fast-forwarding to a week ago, here I was a few doors down from Dr. Dressler on a regular basis and I had yet to reach out to him and discuss our mutual interest in health disparities. When Dr. Lynn issued this assignment it was the push I needed to talk to him. Suddenly, I had a meeting with Dr. Dressler. It would be an understatement to say I was a little nervous. Not only was this a prominent member in the area of research I wanted to do, I was also going to have to go to his office with things to say (a natural conversationalist I am not…). The meeting ended up going great. Similarly to when I was talking to Dr. Gravlee, I was amazed at how personable he was. I told him about my interest in poverty and mental health, and asked him about his study on polymorphisms, cultural consonance, and depression. He then told me about the much larger follow up study he had done, and how he is going to present his findings at the AAA conference in November (I won’t spoil the findings partly out of respect, but mostly because I could barely follow what he was saying and would almost definitely explain it wrong). But anyways, moral to the story? Don’t talk to professors you want and should talk to until another professor makes you do it……or something like that….

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