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Himmelfarb Headlines - May / June 2020

Faculty ProfileFaculty Profile - Interview with Sean D. Cleary, PhD, MPH, Associate Professor of Epidemiology & Biostatistics

Himmelfarb Library continues this feature in our newsletter that lets us become better acquainted with our friends and colleagues at the George Washington University. In this issue we learn more about Sean D. Cleary, PhD, MPH, Associate Professor of Epidemiology & Biostatistics.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, your current position, and why you decided to pursue a career in your field.
I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology in the Milken Institute School of Public Health. My training was in Psychiatric Epidemiology at Columbia University in NYC, and my research has focused on child and adolescent mental health. I came to this specific field through my interest in the psychological impact of homelessness on families that developed while I was getting my MPH degree at Tulane University School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine in New Orleans, LA. That interest then brought me to NYC to study and work in this area under the mentorship of Elmer Struening and Patricia Cohen.

How did you become interested in your field?
I became interested in the field of epidemiology when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand. I was trained and worked in malaria and filariasis control. With my Thai coworkers we travelled to remote villages on the southern border with Malaysia and western border with Burma. Once there we would take blood samples for staining and diagnosis of malaria, distribute medicine to those affected and provide health education to the entire village. While there we would also spray insecticide and distribute mosquito nets to families. After dark we would catch mosquitos (using a flashlight and test tube – female only!) that were then dissected in the lab to track parasites. It was challenging yet exciting work and, after two years, I could not see myself working in another field.

What brought you to GW?
I came to GW after being in other academic institutions that offered either research or teaching support. I did not enjoy either of those situations, and GW offered the opportunity of a balance of research and teaching that I was looking for and has been essential to my career.

What has been your most memorable moment and biggest professional challenge?
Personally, the most memorable moment were the birth of my two children, who are now adults! There have been many professional challenges that provide memorable moments. In general, I have really enjoy collaborating with a wide range of professionals across the university and in the community. Sharing dinner with families in the community I am working with is always very rewarding.

What library resources or services have you found to be the most useful?
These days I appreciate and use the available online resources daily. From journal articles, books, and reference material – I have no problem finding most everything I need. The professional staff in the library have always been helpful to myself and my students.

Whom do you admire?
My maternal grandparents, first generation immigrants from Italy that were married for over 60 years. They worked very hard but knew how to enjoy life. Their enduring support is what I admire and miss.

How do you spend your free time? (or What do you do to relax?)
In my free time my wife and I like to travel. We had the opportunity to explore Greece last May and have enjoyed traveling with our kids to other countries. Otherwise in my spare time I enjoy yard work, reading, and challenging jigsaw puzzles.

What advice would you give to a new faculty member just starting at GW?
There are a lot of opportunities at GW and in the DC area. Get involved. Get to know the city and the communities that live in the city. Try to maintain a life-work balance.

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