A Graduate’s Global Advocacy
“I am the person I always wanted to be when I grew up,” said Alyssa Lowe ’98, who has dedicated her career to improving women’s healthcare globally. A technical adviser for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Lowe has worked on a special Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded project since 2014.
“We’re primarily looking at cervical cancer screening behaviors to understand why women are not being screened,” she said. “We’re developing survey and data analysis tools that are meant to be used by ministers of health of impoverished countries. They can take up these tools and use them at the community level.
“We’re also developing a patient-monitoring tool to be used at the doctor level to collect data on which services they are actually performing,” Lowe continued. “We’re examining similar issues surrounding HPV vaccinations. All these tools were designed to be used globally; the World Health Organization is a partner on the project.”
An advocate at heart, Lowe credits St. Stephen’s with dramatically altering her world view and helping her identify her life’s work at a young age. “I was really lucky to have had a calling come to me so early,” she said. “I attribute where I am now to the experience I had at age 13 in Ms. Respess’ anthropology class. I took that class and immediately knew what I wanted to do with my life.
“At that age, you don’t usually hear much about the outside world,” explained Lowe, who said the class allowed her to gain insight into other cultures. “It made me realize just how small our scope is. That had such an impact on me.”
Lowe also credits theology instructor Jim Crosby with expanding her world view beyond that of a Judeo-Christian perspective. “In sociology, we read materials from all major religions, like the Bhagavad Gita and ancient Hindu scriptures,” she said. “We also visited different houses of worship. I really appreciated being shown alternative perspectives on religion. I felt this was a rare opportunity.”
After graduating from St. Stephen’s, Lowe attended Bennington College, where she double majored in cultural anthropology and operatic performance. “I was able to marry the two,” said Lowe, who spent a year in South Africa examining the impact of musical traditions on South African politics for her senior thesis.
Following college, she joined the Peace Corps and worked for two years as a public health advocate in Kenya during the height of the HIV epidemic. In addition to managing a local public health department, she developed health education programs for children and worked with local midwives. In 2006, she returned to the United States and worked in public health for several years before enrolling in a master’s program at Emory University. Lowe graduated in 2010, but remained at the School of Public Health for another two years, researching maternal and child nutrition in India, Mexico, Vietnam and rural America. In 2012, she became a program manager for CARE, a global humanitarian organization.
“Working at CARE was a labor of love,” she said. “I took on more and more. Eventually, I realized what I was doing day to day did not match my title. When the opportunity came along to work at the CDC, I knew it was a long shot but I went for it.”
During this time, Lowe and her husband became first-time parents. “Women have to make so many sacrifices when trying to have a career and be a mom,” she noted. “So many have to take a step back, but I decided I needed to up my game professionally — to take a step forward to better care for my son.
“I travel a lot for my job, which takes me away from my family, but it makes me a better person — and mother,” added Lowe. “I want my son to have a broad global view, which makes you an empathetic person. I want that for him.”
In addition to her other accomplishments, in 2006 the seemingly tireless Lowe co-founded a nonprofit organization that assists impoverished people around the world. The TARA Project, which was named for a female Buddha associated with compassion and healing, has staff and volunteers in Kenya, Sierra Leone and the United States. Lowe has served as director of development for the last decade.
“St. Stephen’s prepared me so well,” she said. “I learned how to think analytically and strategically, how to take on and manage a large workload. I also learned how to write, which has been incredibly important. Thanks to that foundation, things have come easier.
“I appreciate that at St. Stephen’s it was cool to be a thinker, to have an inquiring mind,” Lowe said. “Being a smart kid was valued and respected. That had a big impact on me and how I live my life.”