Lauren Kloft: Forging connections and fostering collaboration

Published on February 27, 2024

photo of Lauren Kloft in CPHB

Lauren Kloft earned her BA in public health from the University of Iowa in 2021 and is currently working on her Master of Public Health (MPH) degree in epidemiology. She recently answered some questions about the family connection that sparked her interest in public health, the importance of community involvement, and her work at the State Hygienic Laboratory (SHL) at the University of Iowa.

Where is your hometown?

Dubuque, Iowa

What is your degree/program of study?

 Master of Public Health in epidemiology

Why did you choose to study public health? What about it interests you?

I attribute my initial interest in public health to my sister, Samantha Kloft. As a graduate student at the University of Iowa College of Public Health, she shared anecdotes from her studies, research, and community work, as well as her passion for public health. Her expertise grew as she moved to Cambodia to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer, which piqued my interest even more as she shared with me the unmet global health needs she was observing during this time. Many of the conversations I had with my sister reflected concepts I was learning in my own public health studies. I was able to apply real-life context to my educational training during my undergraduate studies at the College of Public Health.

Through my coursework, internships, and volunteer experiences, I gained valuable insight into the complexities of public health and developed a passion for addressing pressing health challenges. Engaging in diverse topics, ranging from health disparities to infectious disease prevention, sparked my curiosity and deepened my commitment to making a positive impact in public health. Additionally, hands-on experiences such as internships and volunteer opportunities provided me with practical skills and exposed me to the real-world application of public health principles. These formative experiences not only broadened my perspective, but also solidified my determination to pursue further education in public health.

You serve as a board member of the Upstream Initiative. Tell us about the organization and why you think its work is important.

Serving as a board member on the Upstream Initiative has been incredibly rewarding. Our interdisciplinary team of volunteers collaborate to address critical needs, such as food insecurity and transportation barriers for patients at the high-risk obstetrics clinic at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Our collective efforts are focused on bridging gaps in access to essential resources and services, thereby enhancing the overall well-being of patients and their families. However, our initiative extends beyond individual patient care to encompass broader community engagement and advocacy. Through initiatives such as our annual lectures series, we aim to not only provide a platform to discuss pressing public health issues, but also foster meaningful discussions.

You also work at the State Hygienic Laboratory in the environmental microbiology lab. What type of skills have you gained there and how might that experience apply in the future?

My time at the State Hygienic Laboratory has been nothing short of transformative, exposing me to the intricacies of public health laboratory practice and the critical role of epidemiology in disease surveillance and outbreak response. My knowledge of viruses and bacteria that significantly impact health has expanded greatly. The urgency of testing to prevent the spread of deadly viruses, as well as the need for testing to prevent dangerous outbreaks, is something I have been fortunate to witness in the lab daily. This experience has unquestionably contributed to determining my field of public health study. The array of testing performed at the State Hygienic Laboratory is most intriguing to me. Testing breast milk to ensure a baby’s safe milk supply; testing water samples to determine safe drinking and recreational use; and testing food to ensure safe consumption and prevent dangerous outbreaks has all inspired me to learn even more.

Why do you think it is important for students to engage with on-campus and community organizations outside of the classroom?

Engaging with on-campus and community organizations has been instrumental in my academic and personal growth. Through these experiences, I have forged meaningful connections, honed my leadership skills, and gained practical insights, complementing my classroom learning. Particularly in the College of Public Health, interprofessional teamwork is paramount; such engagement fosters a collaborative spirit essential for addressing complex public health challenges.

What are your career plans post-MPH?

Post-MPH, I aspire to specialize in hospital epidemiology, focusing on infection prevention. My current practicum at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics involves leading a comprehensive project aimed at assessing the trends and risk factors linked to catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI). This experience has deepened my understanding of the critical role epidemiology plays in identifying and mitigating health care-acquired infections, sparking my interest in pursuing further specialization in this field. Additionally, I am considering pursuing a nursing degree to augment my skills as an infection preventionist and broaden my impact in public health.

What have you enjoyed most about your time at the College of Public Health?

My time at the College of Public Health has been enriched by the unwavering support of the faculty and the myriad opportunities for growth. Interacting with some of the most dedicated educators has been a privilege, shaping my academic journey in profound ways. Whether through research projects, community engagement, or collaborative initiatives, the University of Iowa College of Public Health has provided a nurturing environment where I have thrived both academically and personally.

Photo by Joey Loboda