Student leader is all-in for Michigan Public Health

Sasha Tretyakova

Sasha Tretyakova

Master’s student, Epidemiology

Sasha Tretyakova was preparing for the MCAT before her senior year at the University of Michigan and realized she hated all the subjects she was studying. 

She had begun a pre-med track at her high school in Novi, a Detroit suburb, and continued “as a default” while completing a double major in Biomolecular Science and History, with a minor in Science, Technology and Society. 

“Through that History major, I took History of Epidemics during my junior year,” Tretyakova said. “Because it was about diseases, I thought, this is what I'll do in medical school, but it wasn’t. I was actually more interested in public health.” 

She chose electives in HIV/AIDS and history of medicine, which suggested public health as well.

A research experience in a wet lab also pointed Tretyakova toward public health. She worked for the Veterans Administration Ann Arbor Healthcare System, studying how prenatal exposure to smoke impacts babies’ immune systems in a mouse model. 

Her job involved handling mice and performing cell isolation procedures. The primary investigator also explained the final data sets to her. 

“Smoking is interesting to me because it’s common knowledge that it’s bad for you, but people still smoke—why is that?” Tretyakova said. “What populations do that? I wanted to hop over from the wet lab side to more of the epidemiology side.”

She chose Epidemiology at Michigan Public Health for her graduate program because it was rigorous, ranked among the best and a great value. 

I think epidemiology, in particular, is a good combination of all the technical skills you need in public health like coding and biostatistics, and the community engagement and working with people parts of public health.”

She is busy with her academic work, but also admits she is “all over the place” in terms of interests. She is not scattered; rather, she is extraordinarily engaged in many things. 

Tretyakova’s activities this semester by the numbers:

  • 21 credits in her course load
  • 2 Graduate Student Instructor positions—introductory biology and chemistry labs
  • 1 office of the Public Health Student Assembly (PHSA)—incoming president Fall 2022
  • 2 University of Michigan advising jobs: peer advisor at the University Career Center and admissions ambassador for Michigan Public Health
  • 1 internship at the Washtenaw County Health Department
  • 1 membership in the Public Health Action Support Team (PHAST)
  • 2 volunteer jobs: Humane Society of Huron Valley and Barn Sanctuary of Chelsea

At the Washtenaw County Health Department, Tretyakova conducts survey research to determine who in the county is most prepared for an emergency. She is interested in how these results are used. 

“For example, it may translate to calling DTE Energy and identifying a vulnerable group that needs power restored as quickly as possible because they need it for their medical equipment—this is public health,” Tretyakova said.

Her tendency toward active engagement manifested in her commitment to the Michigan Public Health community. During her first year, Tretyakova noticed the effects of COVID isolation. 

“I feel it’s depressing for a lot of students because they just do their homework and don’t talk to one another,” she said. 

As incoming president of PHSA, Tretyakova plans to help students get to know each other and feel connected as a “Go Blue School of Public Health community,” continuing the efforts of outgoing president, Brandon Bond.

During her first year, she took on the unofficial role of filling information gaps for her cohort by sending out emails. 

“There are so many resources the school has that students don’t know about,” Tretyakova said. 

As president of PHSA, she will leverage her experience from the University Career Center to create effective communication, along with professional development and networking opportunities.

Similarly, Tretyakova wants to build awareness regarding internships. 

“We do projects in the community, nationally and internationally,” she said. “That’s a really good opportunity for so many people even if they aren’t in Global Health and are in Epidemiology or Biostatistics. We have to do an APEx for graduation, where you do a real life project in public health, but people don’t know PHAST already exists and can help them fulfill that requirement.”

Tretyakova was awarded School of Public Health Student Leader of the Year for 2022. She received this recognition with humility. 

“I’m all over the place so people just recognize my name,” she said. 

While she is “all over the place,” she is all-in. 

While immersed in her own work, she said, “What I’m thinking about right now is more about the School of Public Health community.”

Tretyakova plans to apply to doctoral programs in Fall of 2022, hoping to do research. Her interests include tobacco use and policy. 

“I like taking the numbers and data and making sense of them,” she said.” I like to see both sides: the community aspect and communicating with people, as well as the background research. In the future, I see doing something in the middle.”