Skip to main content

Student Profile: Venessa Chen

Venessa Chen, BS, MSPH candidate in the Global Disease Epidemiology and Control Program

Venessa Chen, BS, is an MSPH candidate in the Global Disease Epidemiology and Control Program in the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Her interests revolve around understanding the social determinants, behaviors, and stigma that impact HIV prevention among adolescents and young adults. 

She previously studied Microbiology and Immunology with a minor in International Development at McGill University where she earned her Bachelor of Science and was awarded the Alma Mater Scholarship in her first year. Following her undergraduate education, Venessa worked as a Research Assistant in the Lady Davis Institute HIV-1 RNA Trafficking Laboratory at McGill University where she developed experimental protocols and co-authored a literature review on liquid-liquid phase separation in HIV-1 and SARS-CoV-2 replication. 

While here at the Bloomberg School, Venessa has worked primarily on HIV-related research and outreach. During her first semester, Venessa served as an HIV counselor at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center Harriet Lane Clinic, where she provided individualized counseling and testing for youth ages 11-25. She also works with Parks and People, a Baltimore community-based organization that works to create green space for underserved communities. Additionally, Venessa is a member of the JHU Center for AIDS Research Adolescent and Young Adult Scientific Working Group, where she coordinates monthly speaker series to facilitate interdisciplinary research collaborations. 

As a graduate student researcher, Venessa is currently involved with the Program for Implementation and Equity Research (PIER) in the Center for Public Health and Human Rights, where she has assisted with various research projects including the People Living with HIV (PLHIV) Stigma Index 2.0 Project, which works to update the previous PLHIV Stigma Index to reflect current global treatment guidelines and better measure intersecting stigmas around HIV. 

In recognition of her research, Venessa was the 2023 recipient of the Diana Hess Award from the Department, which is given to students who are devoted to improving public health in African countries. Venessa was also a recipient of the Global Health Established Field Placement Award in 2023; she worked in Durban with TB HIV Care for over 5 months helping support a project aimed at improving the implementation of HIV prevention and treatment among adolescent girls and young women and female sex workers in South Africa. “This experience honed my qualitative and quantitative research skills, and I gained insights into the complexities of conducting research within diverse contexts. I also learned the vital role of partnerships in global health initiatives, emphasizing collaboration, trust-building, and shared ownership.” 

As Venessa finishes up her time here in the International Health MSPH program, she is looking forward to pursuing a career in sexual and reproductive health research with a focus on adolescents and young adults. 

“My time as a student in IH has shaped the trajectory of my career. My coursework, research, and experiences working with communities at risk for HIV in South Africa broadened my perspective on the intersection of social dynamics and health. This has focused my interest on exploring social structures that impact disease transmission and control, and the nuances of the needs and challenges faced by those that are at times overlooked when it comes to disease control.

I’m extremely grateful for the connections I’ve made throughout my time here at [Johns] Hopkins. I’ve had the privilege to work with and receive mentorship from faculty that are leaders in their fields. I’ve also made lifelong friends; together we’ve celebrated both small and big milestones as we start and grow in our careers, creating a network of support that has extended beyond the classroom.” 


Published May 9, 2024