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2000s Alumni Stories

Aparajita Sohoni headshot

HumBio area of study: Medical Anthropology.
HumBio was the best part of my Stanford experience! It led me to study medical anthropology, which led me to study leprosy in a slum in Mumbai. During that summer, I decided that I'd rather be a physician helping people than studying people, and thus began my career in medicine. 12 years later, I'm a physician in Oakland, and I still fondly remember my time as a HumBio student, an SA, and then as a CA for A-side. It was a wonderful, stimulating, and liberating department to be a part of! I miss it very much!

Melora Simon headshot

HumBio area of study: Health Policy and Finance.
My life resembles a module from Spring quarter of the Core, figuring out how to improve health care delivery in government-run health systems. The techy side helps me to understand the science behind things like blood sugar control for diabetics and the fuzzy side helps me figure out how to get doctors, nurses, and even receptionists to focus on making sure blood sugar control improves among their diabetic patients. It is very rewarding and I feel I owe a lot to HumBio for giving me the core problem solving skills I need to be successful in my job.

Head shot of Raj Shukla in dark grey suit, blue collared shirt, red/blue striped tie

The Human Bio undergrad major was valuable. It gave me a multidisciplinary perspective that I used to gain a JD and MBA.

HumBio area of study: Biomedical Ethics. I took my humbio degree and went to law school, never thinking that I would ever end up using my degree within my career. After several years as a prosecutor at the state and federal levels, I got the opportunity to sit on what is informally known as the Vaccine Court. Functioning as a subset of the United States Court of Federal Claims, the Office of Special Masters hears cases brought by
private citizens (usually represented by counsel) against the United States Department of Health and Human Services. These claims allege the petitioners suffered serious injuries as the result of vaccination. My job is to preside over the cases and determine if the petitioner has successfully proven his or her case. I love this job because my humbio background provides a perfect foundation, and my position exemplifies the intersection of human biology and law.

Katiri McRae

HumBio area of study: Biopsychological Basis of Behavior.

Head shot of Sam Richardson with trimmed beard, wearing grey suit jacket with open collared medium blue shirt

HumBio area of study: Health Policy
The summer before my freshman year, I sat down with the full list of Stanford majors and crossed out roughly half of them: the subjects I *knew* I didn't want to study. I crossed out both Human Biology and Economics, which ended up being my major and minor. (I still use this story to encourage my students to be open to changing their academic paths.)
After completing Harvard's Ph.D. in Health Policy, I have made a point of spreading the HumBio gospel of interdisciplinarity wherever I go. As a professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at UT-Austin, I helped design a new Health & Society program ( And now as an economics professor at Boston College, I am helping to design a new major in Health, Humanities, and Society. I'm guessing y'all know what Oscar Wilde said about imitation and flattery.

Tiffany Neal headshot

HumBio area of study: Bioethics and Disease.
My favorite part of the HumBio core was Bill Durham's module on the evolution of lactose tolerance. What a fascinating story! I still tell it at parties to this day. HumBio was the perfect preparation for a career in public health - I just wish I had known more about this field before stumbling across it a few years after graduation! Now I work as a health educator and I love the intersection of human biology, teaching, and writing.

Zoe Chafe headshot

HumBio area of study: Conservation Biology & Policy.
From chasing butterflies at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory with Carol Boggs, to experiencing the wonders of the Galapagos with Bill Durham, and watching for grizzlies as I interviewed Montanan land-owners for my thesis, HumBio helped me to understand the wonders of the natural world and the human influences that are shaping it. I constantly refer back to experiences I had at HumBio in my current work (on climate change, energy use in developing countries, and human health), and feel so lucky that I was able to start down a truly interdisciplinary path as an undergrad.

Kyle vos Strache headshot

HumBio area of study: Neurobiology.
In a moment out of "White Men Can't Jump," studying late in Russ Fernald's lab - fruits, including those starting with the letter Q - so Vinita could win College Jeopardy.

Cindy Mong headshot

HumBio area of study: Pathophysiology of aging.
HumBio introduced me to the concept that healing and illness are the story of disease. I won't every forget my advisor Larry Zaroff, MD in his elmo hat, meeting with me for coffee at the student bookstore to discuss my curriculum, which we liberally peppered with psychology, biology, and seminar/practicums. He encouraged me to learn the art and
science of medicine as much as possible, and I appreciate that and take it with me in my career.

Sage Hyman headshot

HumBio area of study: Health as a Privilege.
HumBio nurtured my interdisciplinary explorations and provided me with a breadth of knowledge that made many options after graduation both attractive and feasible. I eventually found my way to midwifery, and along the way I enjoyed an exciting few years in domestic and international health work.

HumBio area of study: Medical Anthropology.
My work now involves helping people understand how the health reform law will affect their lives. I am so grateful to the professors who gave me an excellent background on health policy and our broken health care system so I can draw upon that knowledge when digging deep into this complicated system.

Blue-footed booby courting dance

HumBio area of study: Genetic Anthropology.
If it weren't for Professor Durham's demonstration of the blue-footed booby courting dance, I would still be single.


HumBio area of study: International Child & Adolescent Health & Development.
The HumBio Program allowed me to combine my passions for International Health and Child & Adolescent Development into a single course of undergraduate study. Also, through several of my upper division (elective) courses I was introduced to a variety of career paths including research, philanthropy, preventive medicine and public health. I am now in the process of applying to joint MD/MPH degree programs and I am thankful for the broad foundation I was afforded through HumBio.

Blue-footed booby

HumBio area of study: Women’s Health.
Thanks to the great variety of HumBio classes, I was able to find a passion that carried on after graduation and continues to influence my future career plans. It was my Controversies in Women's Health class that gave me a fantastic mentor, Dr. Jacobson, who allowed me to shadow her in her busy OB/GYN clinic as a student. The class also introduced me to many different health issues facing women. Funniest moment: Prof. Durham's interpretation of the blue-footed booby walk.

Helen Snodgrass headshot

HumBio area of study: Brain, Behavior, and Adolescent Development.
HumBio introduced me to an interdisciplinary approach to studying and solving problems that I am trying to pass on to my Biology students. We've looked at how the high prevalence of malaria can help explain differing rates of sickle cell anemia among different populations and how lactose tolerance evolved. And, of course, they love all of Tom's rap songs! My time as a HumBio CA inspired me to find creative ways to interest my students in Biology so they will go on to study it in college!

Tom McFadden

HumBio area of study: Neuroscience and Behavior.
The ability to get to teach this material at such a high level has awakened a tripartite passion for research, teaching, and public outreach that has shaped my entire life plan.

Becca Tisdale headshot

HumBio area of study: Neuroendocrinology.
One day in the Core, my good friend was sitting next to me and, about fifteen minutes into class, whispered that she felt really nauseous. Before we knew it, she had thrown up (albeit quietly) in her own lap. Stunned, we implored her to go home and clean up/get better while we cleaned up the mess. Shockingly, barely a single Core student noticed that this had happened-- everyone was disbelieving when we told them that another student had thrown up and left class in the middle of lecture! From then on, she uses that story as an example of just how focused Humbio students are.

Dr. Bob Siegel & Maasai villagers in the famous Siegel jump
Health and Health Policy

HumBio area of study: Environmental Change and International Health.
One of my favorite HumBio experiences didn't occur during the Core, but actually happened this past year when I was working as a healthcare program director for a nonprofit in rural Kenya. My parents came to visit and we went on safari in the Maasai Mara. As we stepped out of the van during our visit to one of the traditional Maasai villages, our Maasai guide, Andrew, noticed my Stanford Alumni baseball cap. He asked me if I had attended Stanford, and grinned broadly when I answered that I had. "Oh, do you know a professor there, he has come to visit us!" I paused in amazement, and then slowly grinned and asked, "Did he wear a funny hat?" "Yes, yes!" "And did he have crazy hair and talk really fast and jump in all his pictures?" "YES, YES that is Dr. Robert Siegel, how is he? We Maasai remember him very well!" Even halfway across the world, people know HumBio and its professors. We certainly make our mark wherever we go!

photo credit: Robert Siegel


Storey house tour of Scharfenberg chocolate factory San Francisco

HumBio area of study: Genetic Disease & Public Health.
I'll never forget my years at Storey House. Being surrounded by so many diverse individuals all united by the theme of HumBio has inspired me to study medicine from both a social and scientific perspective!