Why did you decide to pursue a career in public health?
One of the main catalysts for pursuing a career in public health was my interest in child maltreatment and its profound effects on mental health. The ability to improve children's lives at an early stage has the potential to mitigate these adverse experiences, as early intervention can break cycles of abuse and neglect, making it an incredibly effective public health strategy. In many societies, mental health is still stigmatized, and access to mental health services is often limited. A career in public health provides me with the opportunity to change these narratives, increase mental health literacy, and promote services that can help individuals live fuller, healthier lives. It is increasingly clear that health outcomes are deeply entwined with social, economic and environmental factors. My public health career allows me to tackle these social determinants of health and to promote health equity, ensuring everyone has a fair opportunity to lead a healthy life, regardless of their socio-economic circumstances. As an epidemiologist, I have the opportunity to explore a multitude of health-related issues in depth, leverage data to inform evidence-based solutions and contribute to health policies that can have wide-ranging effects. It's an exciting and evolving arena, one where every activity has the potential to make a significant difference across global populations.
How did the GSU School of Public Health prepare you for your career?
The GSU School of Public Health played an instrumental role in shaping my professional path. It offered a comprehensive and rigorous curriculum that armed me with a strong theoretical understanding of public health principles, but it was the practical opportunities and networking that truly prepared me for my career. As a student, I was able to participate in research projects that allowed me to apply the theoretical knowledge I was learning in class to real-world health problems. These research experiences helped me build my analytical skills and deepened my understanding of the complex issues at play in the public health field. In terms of practice, I had the opportunity to work directly with premier public health agencies, where I gained an understanding of the daily workings of public health practice and how research and policy come together to impact health outcomes. Moreover, the school helped me understand the role policy plays in public health and equipped me with the skills to interpret, critique and formulate health policies. The GSU School of Public Health has a remarkable community of professionals and peers. The network of colleagues I met at GSU has become an essential part of my career. These individuals have become lifelong collaborators, colleagues and friends who continue to enrich my understanding of public health and provide support and collaboration in various projects.
What advice do you have for students interested in public health?
Public health is a field where you can truly make a difference on both a small and large scale. It's a rewarding profession that allows you to contribute to improving the health of communities and populations. There are six key pieces of advice for entering the field and flourishing in your future career:
- Understand the Breadth and Depth of the Field: Public health is an incredibly diverse field, encompassing everything from epidemiology to health education, policy and environmental health, to name a few areas. Spend some time learning about the various sectors within public health to get an understanding of where your interests might lie.
- Gather Practical Experience: One of the best ways to understand public health is to get involved in it. This could be through internships, volunteering, or research projects. Practical experiences allow you to apply what you've learned in class to real-world scenarios, which can help you better understand the field and where you want to focus.
- Stay Informed: Public health is a dynamic field, and it's crucial to stay updated with current events, research and trends. Regularly reading public health journals, reports and news articles will keep you informed and broaden your understanding of the field.
- Build a Strong Network: Networking is a critical aspect of a career in public health. Attend seminars, workshops, conferences and other events where you can meet professionals in the field. Not only will this help you learn more about public health, but it can also open up opportunities for internships, collaborations, and jobs.
- Pursue Further Education: A master's degree in public health or a related field can open up more opportunities and give you a deeper understanding of public health principles and practices. Consider this if you're serious about a long-term career in public health.
- Be Passionate: Finally, have a passion for improving people's health and well-being. Public health can be a challenging field, and having a genuine interest in making a difference can provide the motivation to persevere through those challenges.
What advice would you give to current public health students?
Thinking about my time as a student in the School of Public Health, there are three pieces of advice that I would give:
First, prepare for the future but remain flexible in the present. There will be opportunities that arise that will open your eyes to possibilities and interests that you might not have considered. The danger in being singularly focused on one path is that you could miss the adventure that’s waiting for you along the journey. Some of the best experiences have come from me simply saying “yes” to opportunity. Second, always remember the four P’s. Be positive, remain principled, be proactive and be productive. These are characteristics of people who are impactful to the world. Your positive outlook will fuel your resilience. Your principles will steer you in the right direction, in every endeavor. Being proactive gives others permission to do the same. Being productive is a concrete way to build your legacy. Finally, make connections and keep them strong. I grew up hearing that networking is one of the best ways to thrive in all aspects of life. I challenge that idea and instead believe that embracing relationships with real connection is the goal for which to strive. There is power in relationships that extends beyond a generic introduction. When you create connections based on shared interests and goals, you’ll be more successful at every aspect of life, because people want to interact with people they know and like.
What’s your favorite GSU SPH memory?
Without a doubt, my favorite GSU School of Public Health memory would have to be the Ph.D. hooding ceremony. It was a moment that encapsulated the culmination of years of dedication, hard work and immense learning. It was truly a landmark in my academic journey and a memory that I will forever cherish. What made it even more special were the faces of my family and the staff and faculty who were there to share that moment with me. These were the people who had been with me every step of the way, from the first day of classes to the final stages of my dissertation. Seeing their pride and knowing that I had their support was an incredibly rewarding feeling. Recalling the countless hours of encouragement and guidance they provided along the way still makes me feel truly grateful. They were not just teachers and administrators; they were mentors who nurtured my curiosity, challenged me to push my boundaries, and fostered an environment of growth. Moreover, the hooding ceremony symbolized an induction into an ever-growing family of individuals who are deeply committed to making a difference in the world of public health. It wasn't just about individual achievement but about becoming part of a larger community dedicated to continued growth, continued expansion and continued impact. It is this shared commitment that makes the GSU School of Public Health family special. It's about being part of a legacy that is built on the tireless efforts of many before me and the promise to continue contributing to this critical field.