Alumni Reflections

When asked what drew her to the Laney Graduate School, Melissa Creary (16G, Graduate Institute for the Liberal Arts) had a simple answer: “Laney seemed like home to me.”

Emory had been a part of Creary’s education since her undergraduate days, where she earned a BS in Biology at Emory College before completing her MPH in Behavioral Sciences and Health Education at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health.  When it was time to select a destination for her graduate studies, Creary was drawn to the Laney Graduate School’s Graduate Institute for the Liberal Arts (ILA). “[The ILA] doctoral program…afforded me the ability to essentially craft the PhD I thought was necessary for what I wanted to become, which was an interdisciplinary scholar who pushes the boundaries of what disciplinary work can look like.”

Creary’s doctoral research focused on sickle cell disease (SCD). Creary was born with SCD, and in high school, she became interested in the topic from a science perspective when it was discussed in a biology class.  Says Creary, “This topic – I’ve been carrying it with me and in me since birth. It’s taken many, many transformations. In the beginning, I thought I wanted to get a basic science doctoral degree. And then more and more, I was less interested in a cure that would happen vis a vis the cellular pathway and became more interested in the quality of life that occurs in the people that are living with SCD.”

Following her Master’s studies, Creary served as a health scientist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It was during her time at the CDC that she was exposed to the Brazilian Ministry of Health, which opened a new path of inquiry and research that she followed to the Laney Graduate School.

Creary’s dissertation, An Identity Crisis for Sickle Cell Disease in Brazil, reflects the interdisciplinary experience she cultivated at Laney. Building upon her background in public health, Creary’s dissertation incorporates important topics and methodologies from the fields of anthropology, history, science and technology. “My dissertation is about different constructions that are occurring in Brazil, in particular how race and science are merging in the form of health policy about SCD. I’m interested in individual, organizational and governmental outlooks on how SCD policy is constructed to look like it is a disease that is primarily and solely for the black population, despite existing in a country of national mixture like Brazil. People who have SCD are across the phenotypic spectrum in Brazil, and so I’m also looking at what does it mean to be phenotypically white and living with sickle cell disease in a place where the government and others say that this is a black disease.”

Today, Creary is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Management and Policy at the University of Michigan. She continues to research global health, social movements, race, culture, citizenship and SCD.

The Laney Advantage

During her time at Laney, Creary took advantage of numerous professional development and career planning opportunities, including Laney’s Grant Writing Program (GWP) and the Professional Development Support Funds program (PDS).

“As far as the GWP, I can tell you that I do not think I would have received the fellowship I received as a doctoral student without participating in it. It was intense and intentional, and to my knowledge, all of my friends that participated in the GWP all received grants.” Creary also credits the PDS program for her professional development. “PDS funds helped to support my preliminary research, my language training and helped support what would eventually turn into the dissertation. I also can’t speak highly enough about the availability of funds to attend conferences, to make contacts. PDS allowed me to go to conferences, but in that process, understand the reason why you should be attending these conferences."

Keep up with Melissa Creary on her website at