Alumni Profile: Jason Pike (‘86)

Alumni Profile: Jason Pike (‘86)

By Jeremy Handel

SMC Grad Battles COVID on Frontlines with CDC

Jason Pike
Jason Pike

After a career of working in the Army to help prevent diseases in soldiers, Jason Pike (’86) decided to help his country once again and joined the team at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the fight against the COVID pandemic.

As a medical entomologist with a background in agriculture education and medical entomology, Pike spent much of his career studying the control and mitigation of pests. His work focused on controlling pests that cause disease in humans, helping to prevent sickness and death in soldiers.

“I had always been interested in the natural sciences and serving in the Army,” he said. “Many people wouldn’t believe these two fields would overlap, but they would be wrong.”

After serving on active duty for 22 years and in the National Guard and Reserve Officer Training Corp for nine years during college, Pike retired as a Lieutenant Colonel from the Army until the COVID pandemic hit. He felt the need to return to service to do his part to help fight the outbreak. He attempted to re-enlist, but with a large number of retired soldiers looking to do the same, he was turned down.

Pike still wanted to help, so he started looking for jobs in his field where his knowledge and talents could be put to use.

“I checked out a job website and found that there were hundreds of openings at the CDC, so I bombarded them with applications and took the first job they offered me,” he said. “To me at the time, COVID-19 was the enemy, and I had a strong desire to serve and take my fight to the outbreak.”

Pike has now been with the CDC for nearly two years and has been closely involved with combatting the pandemic. He is a part of the COVID-19 task force and is a member of the agency’s global rapid response team. These duties have sent him to various hotspots as part of the ground field deployment team, which he said he enjoys because he is able to help people.

“I learned, while on the ground deployments, that compassion and connecting with people can make all the difference in what you are doing and who you are helping,” he said.

Pike’s journey to his current calling got its start with an opportunity presented to him by Spartanburg Methodist College. He said when he applied to SMC, he wasn’t the best student in high school and his test scores weren’t that great, but the College gave him a chance and he was determined not to waste it.

“For me, it was a second chance to see if I could further my education,” he said. “I remember shaking with anxiety walking into the side entrance of the Montgomery Sciences building on the first day of class. After the first semester, when I passed all my classes with a 4.0 GPA, I knew I was exactly where I needed to be.”

Not only was he ready for SMC, he flourished. Pike finished his studies in agriculture education and then went on to earn a bachelor’s and master’s in agriculture education from Clemson University and a master’s in medical entomology from Colorado State University.

Pike credits SMC for helping him improve his study habits and better focus on his studies while gaining more confidence. This improvement allowed him to continue on to a long, rewarding career in serving his country and helping others.

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