Name: Philip Castrovinci
Graduation Year: 2008
Programs of Study: Public Health Studies
Current Residence: Baltimore, MD
So I’m 23, and graduated Hopkins in 2008. Bill Nye the Science Guy gave us our send off into the world, which is ironic because he could indirectly be attributed to my attending Johns Hopkins. I took a job with plans for grad school. Of course, the plans I set were instantly changed by my circumstances, and now I find myself on a more interesting path with a fist-full of stories that include circumnavigating the glove, and biological defense. So I’ll tell you a bit of what has happened in the last year, and a bit more about how I can view Johns Hopkins one year removed.
I took a job as a project manager at Epic Systems, which implements healthcare software all over the country. It was a fabulous exposure to the healthcare industry. In a nutshell, I took a software package that Epic developed and in conjunction with a team from a particular hospital, would customize it to fit the hospital needs. I flew around the country helping out nurses, docs and interacting with nearly every position in the hospital. I enjoyed it. I recommend it to anyone.
They have an incredible facility in Madison, WI. (Well, technically Verona, WI.) It’s a huge complex that was designed by architects from Disney and Microsoft. It sits in the middle of a cow field with multiples buildings, each with their own theme: “Swedish,” “Jungle,” “Asian,” “New York City,” and “Country Garden” to name a few. Of course, no corporate facility would be complete without its own tree house conference room. You would think that you wouldn’t want to leave an dynamic and unique environment where you got subsidized gourmet lunch, and could wear anything to work, as they fly you around to different hospitals on their dime. But something for me was missing. Most people don’t graduate thinking they want to implement software, and talking to doctors at my project site pulled me back into the health arena. I applied to The Bloomberg School of Public Health to study Molecular Microbiology and Immunology. Of course, I put aside some money, and I would attend in the fall…but I had one thing to do that was on my plate since I started working at Epic…
Right after I was hired, my buddy came for a tour of the Epic grounds. He was going into his Senior year at Hopkins and studying International Relations. He had a few interesting post-graduation plans: he was going on The Mongol Rally. What is that? He explained to me that he was planning on driving, in an underpowered vehicle, from Spain to Mongolia.
How could I not go? Of course I was just hired, and they wouldn’t allow me to take six weeks off to go do something dumb like this. But after I got into Bloomberg…how could I not go? There is more to the story: the race is one for charity, and each team needs to raise money, in addition to their own supplies.
Long story short, we raised the money, got all our visas and got all our plane tickets together. We arrived in Barcelona, purchased a car, stocked up on supplies, and made our way around out of Europe. We drove through Spain, France, Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, and Russia….what happened to Mongolia? Well you can read all about it in our upcoming blogs on SilkRoadWarriors.com
There were some ridiculous times, as you can imagine, right up to the end. The time I was caught at an Azeri checkpoint, barely being able to leave Spain, the Castle party in the middle of Czech Republic, the time we were assailed by a car that came up behind us, the frequent road issues in Georgia, and tire trouble. I warned my team, that I might be the most unfortunate traveler to be with, as things quite outside my control happen to me. I leave you, dear reader, with that. Onto the next step…
Being a public health major at Hopkins, I was equipped to deal with many subjects, but wasn’t prepared to master any one in particular. I also was able to take classes at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, and I knew that it was THE place to study and work on public health issues. I’ve started my own blog to talk about infectious diseases. I am here currently, taking courses like Advanced Virology, Public Health Ecology, GIS, and Immunology. I need to pick a thesis topic. I think I would like to do something with disease modeling: showing mathematically how diseases could fluctuate in populations with a given set of parameters. I might also want to do something with biological warfare. Whatever I do, I need to figure it out quickly!
I like my program. I also love being back on the East coast! Probably 90% of the people I know in the world live between NYC and DC. I can visit anyone for the cost of a train ride.
The next few years might be interesting, at least I hope they will be. I am applying to doctorate programs in a variety of fields related to disease. Not too certain what might happen there. But over the next year, there are a variety of government jobs like the NIH and CDC, which might be worthwhile. I am waiting to hear back for a Fulbright Grant to India. We shall see. I feel uncomfortable writing a synopsis of my past year in two pages, but you get the idea.
I thought about some send off advice that might be pertinent to those who are looking at Hopkins, or recently attended, or whatever. Advice can normally come one of two ways: you either don’t agree with it, or it’s so general and abstract you find difficulty applying it to your life. So here are a few ideas:
- Don’t waste your time. Have goals that you are working toward, and set time aside for them. In college, it’s very easy to do nothing for days on end, and easier to fill your schedule with useless activities or studying that is in effect busy work for your to feel good about yourself. Set aside a schedule that works for you, preferable 8-5. Have chunks of time devoted to your course work, weeks in advance of assignments and tests. School work can be challenging, however, nothing is designed for your to make draconian investments of time if you plan properly. You can work your tail off from 8 to 5 everyday, and still have enough time to do nothing on the weekends and in the evening.
- Whatever you want to do, do it well. Work at it. I come across thousands of people who “could do well if they tried.” WHAT? You get one shot at doing this life. One shot at high school (well, normally) and surely one shot at high school. If you want to do well, DO WELL. Put in the effort. There are people who think school is for the birds, and want to go skateboarding all day. FINE. Go skateboarding, but understand that if you are a bad skateboarder, you might not go far. (No pun intended.) Don’t sit on the couch and watch skateboard videos. Even if your friends are with you, be the best among them, and push yourself out of your comfort zone. Get it together, and get it right. School might not be for everyone. Skateboarding might not be for everyone. But something is.
- Take learning a language seriously. In high school, go abroad to study your language. Take it in college, go abroad in college. I think language is one of the best ways to discover the world. Sounds cheesy, and it might be, but it’s something everyone wants to do, but never does.
- If you want to stand out, then stand out. If colleges wanted to fill up their classes with 4.0 and high SAT kids who are also in NHS with varsity letters, they could. They largely do, but there is also ways you can stand out that most young people don’t do. Write a book. Patent something. Start a small business. Sky is the limit. It will be an interesting learning experience, even if it doesn’t take you anywhere, and will certainly make you stand out.
Yeah. I hope this was interesting or worthwhile for you all. Take care, and let me know what questions you have. Check out my old blogs, and check out my new one that I keep semi-regularly updated about my thoughts on infectious diseases castrovinci.blogspot.com, and public health!