Crista Manning discovers passion for public health at UNK

Crista Manning discovers passion for public health at UNK.
Crista Manning discovers passion for public health at UNK.(press release)
Published: Apr. 12, 2023 at 4:09 PM CDT
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KEARNEY, Neb. (KSNB) - Since Crista Manning was a little girl, she thought she wanted to become a physician.

The Grand Island Senior High School graduate was on the path to do just that as a pre-medical student at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

“I love talking to people and interacting with the community,” she said. “But I could never put a label on what I wanted.”

The honors student found the career path she was looking for – public health, a field she had never heard of – when researching UNK’s health science minors as a freshman. She learned that public health professionals work in a variety of settings, including government agencies at all levels, nonprofits, private companies, academia and advocacy groups. And they interact with and educate entire communities about diseases and general health, while physicians focus on treating individual injuries and illnesses.

“I want to be the person who can say ‘Don’t do this to prevent this,’” she said.

Most importantly, Manning wants to help everyone, regardless of their socioeconomic status or ability to pay for health care.

“I don’t want people to be judged for where they came from,” she said. “The less fortunate need proper care, too, because how else are they going to stay safe and learn the facts?”

Now a sophomore at UNK, Manning is majoring in sociology and double minoring in biology and public health. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in public health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha after completing her bachelor’s degree.

At UNMC, Manning wants to focus on epidemiology, studying diseases and ways to prevent them in human populations. Manning was drawn to epidemiology because she enjoys science.

“I love the idea of researching infectious diseases, how they spread and how they travel,” she said.

Her internship at Two Rivers Public Health Department in Kearney last summer solidified that decision. She shadowed epidemiologist Aravind Menon, who studies disease progression, morbidity and mortality data in the seven-county health district. As Legionnaires’ disease was spreading across Kearney, Manning created posters for the health department to educate the community about the illness.

The volunteer experience also helped her see that she enjoys asking questions, gathering data and sharing what she learned – something her public health advisor and professor Todd Bartee also noticed.

“She’s always keen to share and to ask questions. A number of those questions are sometimes after the class or reflections I ask them to submit on a regular basis,” Bartee said.

Manning hopes more students will pick public health as a career path. “You can do so much with it,” she said.