Forget cake and ice cream. For her 13th birthday, Judith Wasserheit got a cadaver. The gift was from her mother who, as chair of Special Anatomy at the first Podiatric Medical School in the United States, was able to provide a very special introduction to the human body. The two would dissect the cadaver together on weekends at the morgue.

Such experiences gave Wasserheit a leg up on the competition. She entered Harvard Medical School at the age of 19. Today, the long-time leader in research on sexually transmitted diseases chairs the University of Washington’s Department of Global Health, a post she has held for nearly a year. Find out where she wants to take the department.

Read the interview on the School of Public Health website.