5th-Grader Interviews a Medical Anthropologist

May 3, 2016 - 9:47am

     Vector Mosquito, Drawing by Axel Howard, 5th Grade

Mary Hayden

by Axel Howard (Image by author)

     “Mary, time for tea and rhubarb tarts!” Mary’s grandfather shouted from the front porch of his house in Ireland. Mary and her brothers came running in from the fields.“What were you guys doing out there?” asked her grandfather.

     “Hunting for snakes.” Mary’s brother replied. Mary headed upstairs to read about sharks and snakes. Knowing Mary, I imagine she might be in a situation like this.

     Mary Hayden was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. She grew up all over the world because her father was in the Air Force. As a child, she travelled to ts of different places. Mary loved to read about wildlife, but also liked to play outside with her brothers. Mary loved the outdoors, and even as a very young child she would play in the fields. Mary had a magnificent childhood.

     Later in Mary’s life she went to school at CU and got her Ph.D there. Working in meteorology was her first job, in a time where there were hardly any women in the field. Then, she went to work as a intern at the National Weather Service Office. Now Mary mainly works in physical science along with public health and social science. She is trying to better understand how to change human behavior to reduce the risk of deadly diseases such as malaria and dengue fever from mosquitoes. In her current work, she has travelled to Mexico, Indonesia, Kenya, and Uganda, all places that have a lot of mosquitoes because they are so hot. She’s also been working on helping people feel not so terrible in extreme heat. Her most recent project brought her to Uganda to study rats, fleas and the plague.

     Mary has three kids and a husband. Two of her kids live in the United States and her other child lives in Ecuador. When Mary is not working she likes to read nonfiction books. She also hikes, does yoga, and knits. She visits her kids as often as possible, and she enjoys spending time with them a lot. The hardest things in Mary’s work are having to transition from the developed world to the developing world and back again. Mary sees abject poverty and when she is working in many countries around the world, she has a difficult time when she comes back to the U.S. and sees wastefulness. In the U.S. she sees people who are not appreciative of what they get while others don’t. Even though this is hard for her, it probably makes Mary a better person and scientist.  

     Through this project I have learned many things. Some of the things I learned are: how to structure a biography, more or less how to write one, how to interview someone, and how to ask serious questions politely. Also, women can have a harder time than men in the world of science. Whenever I think about Mary, I will also think about the world in a different way.

Editor's Note: 

This biography was written and shared by 5th grader Axel Howard to NCAR scientist and medical anthropologist Mary Hayden. Needless to say, one never knows the lives that are impacted by NCAR's work in and beyond day-to-day research. Who knows, we may see Axel at NCAR in a decade or so!

Thanks for sharing this Mary and Axel!


About the author

mhayden's picture

Mary Hayden

Dr. Mary Hayden (NCAR) is a behavioral scientist with over 13 years of experience working on weather, climate and health related linkages. She received her PhD in Health and Behavioral Sciences in 2003 from the University of Colorado and is adjoint faculty at the University of Colorado School of Public Health as well as a Guest Researcher with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Her primary research emphasis is on the human behavioral component of climate-sensitive health and disease issues, including community participatory research and the characterization of population vulnerability to weather and climate related health threats.