As the novel coronavirus emerged in the news in January, Sarah Keeley was working as a medical scribe and considering what to do with her biology degree.

By February, as the disease crept across the U.S., Keeley said she found her calling: a career in public health. “This is something that’s going to be necessary,” Keeley remembered thinking. “This is something I can do. This is something I’m interested in.”

In August, Keeley began studying at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to become an epidemiologist.

Public health programs in the United States have seen a surge in enrollment as the coronavirus has swept through the country, killing more than 246,000 people. As state and local public health departments struggle

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