Student Spotlight

Rawlica Sumner

Rawlica Sumner

Hometown: Linden, Guyana

Degree Program: MD/MPH, Epidemiology concentration

Class Year: 2024

Undergraduate Major: Human Biology

Professional Interests: OB/GYN, Health Disparities and Equity Research

Extracurricular Activities/Involvement: DHWS, DCF, Photography club, DINE, BFC

Click here for Rawlica Sumner’s LinkedIn Profile


1. What drew you to the MD/MPH program at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University? Why did you choose to study public health? 

I had a deep desire to learn more about health disparities and social determinants of health early on in my undergraduate career. As I became more curious, I started pursuing classes and internship opportunities that were public health related. I had always hoped to do a dual degree program in New York City which was why Downstate had intrigued me. I also met Dr. Michael Joseph in a summer health professional program that was responsible for birthing my interest in public health, so when I found out he was a part of the Downstate faculty I knew this school had to be something special. Beyond that, the fact that Downstate serves underserved and disadvantaged communities made me excited to come to a school that worked with a population I have a desire of taking care of using a biopsychosocial model.


2. What is your favorite aspect of the program and what have you gained from it?  

My favorite aspect of the program is the support and connections I have built thus far. As I learn to navigate my way through the health professional world and discover my desired area of focus, the MPH program has made it easy to reach out to others for more information on what I am interested in.


3. Can you recall a memorable in-class or general SUNY Downstate experience that struck you as particularly meaningful? 

As a part of my medical school curriculum, we have had discussions of social determinants of health and how some populations have barriers adhering to treatment regimens. Within one particular class discussion, it was really insightful to see how the field of public health is not separate from patient care. While the field of public health has not always been given the same respect as the field of medicine, that session with my classmates reminded me of how important the two fields are in terms of their relationship with each other.


4. Could you describe your activities and involvement at SUNY Downstate? 

I am currently an MS1 Liaison for the Daniel Hale Williams Society here at Downstate. I also volunteer with the Brooklyn Free Clinic (BFC) in addition to being a general member of the photography club, Downstate Christian Fellowship (DCF), and Downstate Initiative for Nutritional Empowerment (DINE).


5. What are your goals? Do you have plans to further your education or do you have a career in mind upon graduation?  

Right now, I am trying to keep an open mind for the future. With my dual degree there are endless opportunities. I hope to enter the field of Obstetrics and Gynecology and focus on improving women’s health, especially for women who are of minority status. I also hope that my career will involve community and clinical research as well as teaching and building and implementing health equity initiatives.


6. Do you have any advice for someone who might be interested in Downstate’s MD/MPH program?  

Although it may not be necessary for you to have a great career, I promise you will be so glad you pursued it! Pursuing an MPH in addition to a MD simultaneously has its challenges, but those challenges will build your character, give you new perspectives, and be a better physician for the patients you will serve.