COPH alum Shandey Malcolm now top epidemiologist for her native Turks and Caicos

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Epidemiology was nowhere on her radar when Dr. Shandey Malcolm graduated from the University of Miami with a biology degree in 2004. 

“I knew I wanted to pursue a master’s degree, but I was unsure of the area of concentration,” said Malcolm, a USF College of Public Health (COPH) grad who is now the national epidemiologist of the Caribbean island Turks and Caicos. “I went back home to Turks and Caicos after graduation and took some time to think about my career path. I was open to any career related to human health, but I wanted to do something I was passionate about.”

Malcolm found it while working as a technician in a clinical laboratory. A patient with a communicable disease required testing beyond the scope of the small lab where she worked. 

Shandey Malcolm, MPH, PhD (Photo courtesy of Shandey Malcolm)

“We sent the samples to what was then the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC) in Trinidad,” said Malcolm, who also heads the National Epidemiology and Research Unit within the Turks and Caicos Ministry of Health, Agriculture, Sports and Human Services. “At the time, I didn’t know what epidemiology was, but I quickly found that it combines many of my interests—human health, numbers and writing research papers. I decided I would pursue epidemiology and I’ve never looked back.”

When it came time to head back to school, the COPH was tops on Malcolm’s list. 

“I knew I wanted to study in Florida so I could be close to my family, and, through research, I found that USF had a highly recognized public health program with diverse course offerings. I applied to several Florida universities, but USF was my first choice.”

Malcolm, who was inducted into two honor societies—Phi Kappa Phi and Delta Omega—during her time at the COPH, received a scholarship from her country’s government to study at USF. “When I started at USF I was pursuing the MSPH epidemiology degree. However, the introductory classes helped me realize a love for both epidemiology and biostatistics.”

While at the COPH, Malcolm got her first public health job when she interned with the Florida Department of Health, researching methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections in school settings. After graduating with her MPH in 2008, Malcolm received her PhD from the University of Miami in 2012 and since then has been working for the Ministry of Health in Turks and Caicos, serving first as an epidemiologist, then deputy national epidemiologist and, since 2019, national epidemiologist.

Dr. Malcolm speaking at a recent Ministry of Health workshop. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Malcolm)

“My unit is primarily responsible for coordinating outbreak responses, disease surveillance, health statistics and conducting essential health research,” noted Malcolm. “I get to do what I love while working with a great team of professionals. There are so many ways I apply what I learned at the COPH—data analysis/management, epidemiological concepts and research methods—in my job as national epidemiologist.”

In 2013, Malcolm received the 2013 David Picou Young Investigator Prize. The prize, awarded at the Caribbean Public Health Agency’s annual meeting for the best paper presented by a Caribbean investigator who is not yet an established researcher, is Malcolm’s proudest professional achievement to date. “It was truly an honor, especially considering the caliber of young professionals presenting that year.”

Malcolm’s future plans are to continue working within her country’s Ministry of Health. “Working with a multidisciplinary group of persons to improve health and prevent disease among my own people is fulfilling and rewarding,” she said.

Story by Donna Campisano, USF College of Public Health

Alumni Fast Five

What did you dream of becoming when you were young?

A pediatrician

Where might we find you on the weekends?

At home with my family

What is the last book you read?

“The Lucky One,” by Nicholas Sparks

What superpower would you like to have?

To know what others are truly thinking

What is your all-time favorite movie?

“A Walk to Remember”

Story by Donna Campisano, USF College of Public Health