Carrie Karvonen-Gutierrez

“CEW did a great job of really making it important, and just making us feel important.”
Carrie Karvonen-Gutierrez
Carrie Karvonen-Gutierrez

Carrie Karvonen-Gutierrez is entering her third year as a doctoral student in Epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. As an undergraduate at the University of Northern Iowa, Carrie majored in biology. “I was convinced that I wanted to be a doctor,” she says. Carrie’s plans changed, however, when she traveled to Texas to conduct health research. “I did a literature review of some of the clinical research studies, with respect to gender and cardiovascular health,” she says. “It opened me up to this whole new world of epidemiology, a word I had never even heard.” Carrie decided that what she really wanted wasn’t to be a doctor: it was a career in public health.

Carrie entered the Master of Public Health program at the University of Michigan and graduated in 2005. She soon began working as a staff member at the University to supervise the daily operations of a longitudinal health study on obesity and osteoarthritis. “I knew that I wanted to work in Women’s Health,” says Carrie. “I knew I wanted to stay in academic medicine.” Her education was not yet complete. Over time, working as a project manager and data analyst for the study, “I was starting to ask questions that were beyond my position.” Applying for the doctoral program seemed like a “natural evolution” of her experience and interests.

Carrie knew, however, that going back to school after working comfortably in a staff capacity would entail financial and personal sacrifice. She credits her advisor and mentor, Mary Fran Sowers, with helping her makes this transition. Professor Sowers recommended the Center for the Education of Women as a possible source of funding. “I was reading the guidelines for the scholarships,” Carrie says, “and I thought, ‘Wow, this is exactly where I am and what I need!’” When she received the scholarship, it was first a relief, and then something more. “CEW did a great job of really making it important, and just making us feel important.” Looking back, Carrie says, “I’m very appreciative and thankful of the sensitivity that CEW has given in respecting that we are a group of women with experiences from the work world, now going back to school, and that takes significant sacrifice. The financial part is really important, but also just validating that ‘This is where you’re supposed to be. ‘We’re going to support you in this.’”

Carrie sees her future career path as taking a holistic approach to women’s health. “I think so many times women’s health gets into a very narrow vein of reproductive or maternal and child health… I’d like to think about women outside the fact of whether or not they have children, because there’s a lot more to a woman’s life than just that.” Carrie expects to do more work specifically with women and aging.