If and when you decide to attend public health school, or any grad school for that matter, you’ll hear the questions “Why did you choose that program?” or “What are you going to do with that degree?” endless amounts of times. Although I knew that I was in the right program and enjoying all of my classes and where they would take me, I often struggled putting my responses to these questions into words. After some pondering on the subject, I’ve been able to come up with great answers to these questions. Hopefully, as I discuss why I chose Public Health, this post will start getting you thinking about why you’re really choosing to pursue certain degrees and programs.
Up until I was a junior in college, I was gung-ho about going to medical school and getting that “M.D.” after my name. The workload in my undergrad classes as a neuroscience major was very heavy, and I soon began to get burnt out. I decided to keep pushing through with the coursework and eventually study for and take the MCAT. All of my friends were doing it, so I thought I had to do it, too. One day, after taking a practice MCAT and not doing so well, my family asked me why I actually wanted to be a doctor; my only answer was that everyone else is doing it and that it would be a financially stable job. As soon as those words came out of my mouth I knew that I was going down the wrong track. If I didn’t even have a desire to become a doctor, there was no way that I would find it to be a rewarding career. From then on, I began pursuing other professional degree options, which I knew that I would have a passion for and would be willing to work for, not just because “everyone else was doing it”, but because it was what I wanted.
In order to explore other options, I decided to go abroad the summer after my junior year to Zambia in order to participate in HIV/AIDS education through faith-based outreach. The team I went with was led by a professor at the University of Michigan who has been working on faith-based interventions in order to reach the bulk of the community at one time. While abroad, the team held workshops among the community in which we led a presentation and discussion on the biology of HIV/AIDS, how it is transmitted, how to stay HIV negative, what to do if you’re HIV positive, and the importance of getting tested. These workshops got us directly involved with the community, having important and stimulating conversations surrounding a key health topic. After I returned from the trip, I spent a lot of time thinking about my time spent there and came to realize that I loved working at the community level and being able to get to know the people I worked with on a deeper level than would be possible if I were just a doctor seeing them once every so-and-so weeks (Don’t get me wrong, doctors are absolutely amazing for what they do, it’s just not a role I see myself in). This idea of working at the community level in more of a preventative setting led me to discover the field of public health and all of the wonderful opportunities it had to offer.
After browsing the U of M’s School of Public Health website, I soon became intrigued by the Nutrition and Dietetics program. Not only was I exposed to severe malnutrition while I was abroad (which struck me as a potential target for public health practice), but I also had an innate interest in nutrition, knowing that what we eat can directly impact our health. I also wanted to be able to take on more of a preventative role in health care, and by working with what people are eating, many diseases associated with poor nutrition can be avoided and even reversed. So, I decided to apply to the program, hence where I am now!
As to what I’m going to do with the degree; well, the opportunities are endless. The nice thing about U of M’s School of Public Health is that we are required to take breadth courses to satisfy the MPH requirements, so when we graduate we will have a wide range of skills pertaining not only to our specific sub-plan of study, but to the whole field of public health as well. It seems like almost every day I learn of a new possible career path that others have taken with my degree, and thus I am spending these first few months in grad school exploring the vast options there are for my future with a degree in public health!
Since fall is in full swing, I thought I’d share with you a 2-ingredient (That’s right, only 2!) recipe for pumpkin muffins. Oh, and they’re vegan!
Ingredients: 1 package of spice cake mix, 15 ounces of pumpkin
Directions: Mix the pumpkin and spice cake mix, and pour into muffin tins. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. If desired, you can add ½ to 1 cup of water to the batter to thin them out a bit. Yields 24 muffins.
Oh, and as a follow up to Nora’s post below, here’s a photo of us all at the Nutrition Conference!