When David Blackley decided to come to East Tennessee State University to pursue his doctoral degree in public health with a concentration in epidemiology, he said the opportunity to work with a slew of researchers focusing on Appalachian health issues, as well as living in the region, sold him on attending.
That was three years ago, and at Saturday morning’s commencement ceremony he walked across the stage in ETSU’s Mountain States Health Alliance Athletic Center to receive his long-awaited doctoral degree.
Excited about graduating, and being the last doctoral candidate to receive his hooding from his retiring department chairman, Dr. James L. Anderson, Blackley said in August he will begin his work with the Epidemic Intelligence Service, a two-year postgraduate program with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“It’s a ... training program in field epidemiology, which (is) basically applied epidemiology as opposed to research. I’ll be in a class of about 75 individuals. We’ll be basically doing outbreak investigations for a couple years,” he said. “I’m going to be assigned to ... the division of respiratory disease studies ... in Morgantown, W.Va. Any occupational lung disease in the U.S., that’ll be our jurisdiction.”
Blackley said working for the CDC “is a real dream. It’s a great opportunity to learn with some of the top folks in the field, so the next two years I think are going to be very exciting. It’s a pretty competitive application process, so I feel very fortunate.”
While he’s excited about his upcoming work opportunity, he said he had enjoyed his time at ETSU.
“I’ve just had a great experience here,” Blackley said.
Having just walked across the stage to culminate her undergraduate work, Revathi Lakkakula was all smiles as she headed back to her seat.
Lakkakula, originally from India, said she and her family moved to the United States when she was 9 and claims Chattanooga as her home base.
Following in her older brother’s footsteps, she said she majored in chemistry because of her interests in science and chose ETSU because of its variety of programs.
Lakkakula said she had a lot of fun in her five years on campus.
“I think I liked it so much I wanted to stay another year,” she said. “(Faculty and friends) have made this the best experience ever. They have helped me get to where I am, so I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Lakkakula said she plans to apply to physical therapy school, with ETSU being her first choice in schools.
Dr. Phillip Bagnell, who will be retiring as dean of the James H. Quillen College of Medicine in July, was the commencement speaker at the 10 a.m. graduation, and Atlanta Falcons head coach and ETSU alumnus Mike Smith spoke at the 2 p.m. ceremony.
ETSU estimated there would be 1,792 degrees awarded to the graduating class.