Student Spotlight – Leah Reish


  1. Where are you from? Where did you grow up?

I am from Cleveland, Tennessee. A small city in East Tennessee outside of Chattanooga.

  1. What previous degrees and educational experiences have you earned?

Straight out of high school I went to cosmetology school. I graduated, but decided I wanted to further my career. I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Dietetics with a minor in Chemistry at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

  1. What has been your favorite part about moving to Memphis and what has been the most difficult adjustment?

At first, the most difficult adjustment was moving to a big city that my husband and I knew nothing about (except Elvis). My favorite part about moving here was getting involved in the MPH program and Soma Ministries on campus. Through both of these programs, I have made numerous friends that I am thankful for every day.

  1. What got you interested in public health?

During my last year at UTC, we had an assignment to find our “dream job” on the internet. I had no clue where I wanted to work, but as I researched I found an Epidemiologist position at the CDC. After turning in the assignment, I did not think anything of it until I attended the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) where I talked to many Dietitians that also have MPH’s. That is when I realized I wanted to go into public health and pursue my “dream job” of becoming an Epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I have always wanted to do mission work and/or work for a non-profit organization. With this goal, not only can I work globally/domestically in public health, but I can also incorporate the field of mission work.

  1. Why did you choose our MPH program?

I only applied to two schools; both being in the state of Tennessee. The University of Memphis was actually my first choice and the first school that accepted me into their program. When I received my acceptance letter I knew that it was the right decision.

  1. What do you like most about our School of Public Health?

There are multiple things I like about our School of Public Health. I love how involved we can be not only on campus, but in our community through different opportunities given to us. I also like being able to see the same classmates throughout our classes. It is nice to be able to establish lasting relationships in something you share a passion for with others.

  1. What one public health change would you like to see in the Memphis area?

I would like to see the vast difference of socioeconomic status change for the better. Coming from Chattanooga, I am used to seeing sections of the city with poverty, but I have never experienced it differentiating street to street. To me, it is crazy to think that one street over from a wealthy neighborhood can be one of the poorest neighborhoods in Memphis.

  1. How would you like to apply your MPH degree to your future goals and career?

I want to work with infectious diseases, either at the Tennessee Department of Health or in a fellowship through the CDC upon graduation. After this, my husband and I plan to move to Africa for some time and I would want to work globally for the CDC or another organization. My ultimate long-term career goal is to work in Atlanta at the CDC headquarters as an Epidemiologist. Wherever I may end up, I hope to make an impact with infectious disease prevention.

  1. What are your hobbies/interests?

I enjoy dancing, sports, fishing, and spending time outside. My favorite shows are The Walking Dead and Criminal Minds.

  1. Name something on your “bucket list”

My ultimate dream is to see the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) or the Aurora Australis (Southern Lights) in person.