Health Wise

How an award-winning Rollins College alum is helping Harvard tackle global health issues.

Cherie Ramirez ’06, a 2016 Rollins College Young Alunmni Achievement Award Winner. (Photo by Scott Cook) Cherie Ramirez ’06, a 2016 Rollins College Young Alunmni Achievement Award Winner. (Photo by Scott Cook)

Even from the earliest of ages, some people just seem destined for academic greatness.

Cherie Ramirez ’06 certainly fit that bill when she started taking classes at Valencia College as a 13-year-old. Three years later, associate’s degree in hand, she enrolled at Rollins.

Shortly after her 20th birthday, Ramirez graduated with a double major in biochemistry/molecular biology and classical studies. From there, it was on to Harvard, earning a PhD in experimental pathology and making several notable contributions to the field of genome engineering.

Now the deputy director of Harvard’s newly established Global Learning Studio—part of the university’s Global Health Education and Learning Incubator—Ramirez helps teaching fellows and faculty develop multimodal literacies for their “Societies of the World” curriculum.

Her educational videos and interactive assignments supplement courses such as Global Health Challenges: Complexities of Evidence-based Policy and Contemporary South Asia: Entrepreneurial Solutions to Intractable Social and Economic Problems.

“Sometimes people think about global health as primarily having to do with doctors and health workers,” Ramirez says, “but improving health throughout the world requires everyone outside of health-related professions as well, including policymakers, urban planners, artists, entrepreneurs, and non-governmental entities.

"I work with educators, students, and other partners from a wide range of disciplines on innovative and engaging ways to teach about global health and inspire collaborative action to address the world’s greatest challenges to health such as climate change and the growing obesity epidemic.”

She’s come a long way in a short time, but Ramirez—winner of the 2016 Rollins College Young Alumni Achievement Award—always has an eye on progress.

“There’s still so much to do and learn,” she says. “I want to contribute to making the world a better place.”

(Photo by Scott Cook) (Photo by Scott Cook)

Exploring New Horizons

Back in the day, Ramirez would get the occasional Doogie Howser comparison. But age was never a barrier to her education at Rollins, as she quickly took advantage of opportunities to gain next-level experience.

During her first year, she worked with physics professor Thomas Moore in the Student-Faculty Collaborative Scholarship Program. As a sophomore, a Harvard internship provided a chance to study cancer biology. And as a junior, she conducted hearing research in Belgium and studied cancer pathways in Spain.

Jay Shivamoggi, director of external and competitive scholarships, says Ramirez “could easily be the brightest” student she has encountered in her 15 years at Rollins. But it’s how Ramirez shared that knowledge with others that made her unique.

“Cherie wanted every student at Rollins to enjoy the same kind of experiences she had,” Shivamoggi says. “She was instrumental in organizing a workshop for undergraduate research opportunities.  She brought back information from any conferences she attended, and she invited Harvard faculty for a panel discussion on the value of undergraduate research. Her participation in these workshops remained strong even after she graduated.”

(Photo by Scott Cook) (Photo by Scott Cook)

Role of the Liberal Arts

Ramirez, a two-time winner of the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and an American Chemical Society Scholar, is quick to point out the value of a liberal arts education.

“In addition to my scientific studies, I really enjoyed learning about literature, philosophy, and history,” she says. “There was a lot of intersection. I remember being in three classes and learning the same word, but it had three different meanings depending on the field of study. Rollins gave me the opportunity to explore and realize that so many things in life are connected.”

The College, Ramirez adds, also provided her with practical life skills—from leadership and team dynamics to report writing and event planning—that have proven especially useful. Those intangibles made a big impression on Shivamoggi.

“When I moved offices three times in three years,” she says, “Cherie was always there helping me decorate or talking about another student I needed to meet or another activity she wanted to bring to campus. She was a tutor, a peer mentor, and a buddy to hang out with for any student who needed a friend.”

Ramirez lives in Boston with her husband, Tyler Hickman.