Natalie Flath

Epidemiologist at Baltimore City Health Department

Baltimore, Maryland

Class of 2012, Physiology major


As an epidemiologist for the Baltimore City Health Department, Flath practices activism. She says it is her drive for fighting social injustices that led her to a career in epidemiology. She studies underlining social determinants of health (i.e., racism, poor governance, poverty and income inequality, stigma and discrimination) and how they impact the health of people, communities, and societies. She uses epidemiological evidence to advocate for lasting change.

While Flath doesn’t underestimate the power of public policy, she believes advocacy will always come from the heart. Her passion takes her all over the world and works ultimately to uphold human rights.

How does your time at SPU connect to what you’re doing today?

Not only did the opportunities of scientific rigor in the classroom strengthen my research inquiry to ground my professional capacity, but also most importantly, the connection to communities that broadened my worldview and tugged at my heart during my time at SPU, engendering my passion to utilize my gifts to their fullest potential.

Which SPU faculty or staff member made a difference in your education?

The way the professors exemplify their teachings through their lifestyle was the most inspiring aspect of SPU. The ACT:S (Acting on AIDS) club adviser, philosophy professor Dr. Patrick McDonald walked with our team at the Seattle AIDS walk. I helped Theology professor Dr. Kerry Dearborn facilitate a micro-finance project by selling jewelry on campus that was crafted by her girlfriends in Kenya to support their medical costs. Dr. David Leong taught us about community reconciliation through his demonstration of relocation into hurting communities by sharing about his family’s neighborhood of mixed income and religious background in South Seattle. Biology professor Dr. Cara Wall-Scheffler sat me down at Blakely Island and gave me one of the most meaningful pep talks about the challenges and responsibilities of being a woman in science. My interest for biology professor Dr. Derek Wood‘s microbiology course and his lifelong academic support provided me with the stepping stones to pursue graduate education in infectious disease epidemiology at the number one school of public health in the world. Lastly, in honor of my number one academic advocate, Biology professor Dr. Cindy Fitch, I followed her advice about how global health was made for me. It was the best advice of my life. May she rest in peace.

What advice would you give to current SPU students?

“Don’t be over-wise; fling yourself straight into life, without deliberation; don’t be afraid — the flood will bear you to the bank and set you safe on your feet again.” –Dostoevsky