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An Interdisciplinary Approach to Public Health

Edwin McCulley

March 31, 2020

Edwin McCulley, MS Epidemiology ’20, came to the Urban Health Collaborative (UHC) soon after starting his master’s degree at the Dornsife School of Public Health. He began working with Usama Bilal, MD, PhD, MPH, assistant professor at the UHC and the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, on a research project examining the urban scaling of health outcomes in cities around the world.

McCulley first became interested in public health during his time in the Navy as a hospital corpsman. “Through my military experience, I worked across several platforms (in a clinic, in a hospital, and in the field), and with many different types of medical professionals. I saw how important an interdisciplinary approach was to public health,” McCulley said of his previous experience before coming to Dornsife. He realized that protecting the health of populations could be treated as a complex system, specifically in urban areas. “I experienced a broad range of public health roles (health and sanitation inspections, disease surveillance, health data analysis, pest and vector control, potable water management, thermal stress programs, and immunizations). After my time in the Navy, studying public health was a great way for me to continue to learn the different concepts and skills required to improve health in populations.”

His research with Bilal focuses on urban scaling, in particular how urban factors change with city size and can be applied to theories for city living. The processes (and scaling properties) linking urban size to health have not been thoroughly investigated. Most recently Bilal and McCulley completed a scoping review to map the existing evidence regarding the scaling properties of cities on health outcomes. This includes exploring the association of city size and growth with health outcomes, with the goal of understanding the effects of increasing urbanization rates and potential policy levers that may modify this association. This research will provide guidance to public health practitioners and urban planners in understanding sustainable urban growth.

McCulley’s mentors at Dornsife include Bilal and Thersa Sweet, PhD, MPH, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Drexel’s Dornsife School of Public Health, “Dr. Sweet and Dr. Bilal, both of them, have been excellent mentors, providing leadership and guidance, while supporting the research that has allowed me to grow my analytic and research skills at Drexel.” McCulley benefited from exposure to the vast resources and interdisciplinary urban health research at the UHC, “the best part about working at the UHC is that it is a collaborative!” After completing his master’s McCulley is interested in pursuing a PhD and teaching and continuing to pursue his research in population health and the health sciences.