A year out of college, Amy Parker was working as a nurse and paying bills, but experiences she had during a J-term trip to Nepal her sophomore year kept crossing her mind. She took a leap of faith and began saving half of each paycheck for a 182-day service trip around the world.
On her trip Amy revisited Nepal and joined her mentor and professor of anthropology, Lori Stanley ’80, and another J-term class. They trekked out to the same Nepalese villages Amy had visited as a student. But this time was different—when the locals heard there was a nurse in the group, they began lining up for health exams.
Upon her return, Amy graduated with two master’s degrees: one in nursing, and a second in public health.
She joined the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a primary research investigator in 2004. She spearheaded an intervention for implementing safe water in a rural Maternal Child Health Clinic in Kenya and published a Safe Water System resource guide for Kenyan healthcare workers. The clinic-based intervention she initiated was successful and has since expanded to other rural clinics across Kenya and to other developing countries worldwide.
Since 2005, Amy has been an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer, one of the nation’s elite disease detectives, with the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. She was the lead investigator of a varicella outbreak in Maine, and she presented the outbreak findings to the nation’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Her efforts resulted in a change to the national varicella vaccination policy. She collaborated with the Minnesota Department of Health and was the lead author of an article on the poliovirus cases in Minnesota. She investigated an outbreak of measles in Indiana and published the findings in The New England Journal of Medicine. She continues to travel the world monitoring polio immunization campaigns in India (one of four countries that still harbors the virus), and making sure safe water practices are followed in rural clinics in Africa.
Amy believes it is a basic human right to have clean, safe drinking water, and that children worldwide should be able to grow up without the threat of preventable diseases like polio and HIV. She is a confident and caring agent of change in the world and a living example of Luther’s mission to “serve with distinction for the common good.” She received Luther’s Young Alumni Award in 2007.
“The solid liberal arts education and excellent scientific training I received at Luther laid the groundwork for my current career as an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Every day I am putting my education from Luther into action.
My science skills have been tested during my time in India working on polio eradication, in outbreaks that I have led to contain the spread of measles and mumps in the U.S., and in implementing safe water projects in Kenya.”