Commencement 2023: new grads tell their stories

Bob Handelman

Bob Handelman

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Jessica Cerdeña
Mahwah, NJ
MD/PhD in Medical Anthropology

Where did you do your undergrad?
Washington University in St. Louis.

And what did you study when you were there?
I studied international studies and Spanish with a minor in biology.

So you made a pivot to the sciences later?
During my undergrad, I took all my premed courses so that I would be able to go to medical school. And it was during my time doing international studies, which is kind of an interdisciplinary major, that I got exposure to anthropology. And I kind of had this crisis when I was an undergrad, thinking, “Oh, wow, I really love anthropology research”—and ultimately decided that I wanted to do more intensive research.

What sort of research were you doing for your PhD?
So my PhD was in medical anthropology, and for my research, I worked with women who had migrated from Latin America, here in New Haven. I was really interested in how they had experienced traumatic histories in the process of leaving their home countries, and how they coped with all of that to build futures for their children. All of that has now resulted in a book, which was just published last month by University of California Press. I was actually just talking about the book at the New Haven Free Public Libraries, downtown and in Fair Haven, which was super exciting.

What are your future plans?
I will be starting my residency in family medicine at Middlesex hospital in Middletown, Connecticut. I was really excited to choose that residency because it allowed me to maintain the ongoing connections that I’ve had here in New Haven and also extend that to a new part of Connecticut.