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5 Questions with Public Health Graduates

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Our Public Health program at D'Youville provides students with the knowledge and skills to help them succeed in the promotion of wellness and the prevention of illness. 

Hear from five D'Youville alumni who took different public health career paths after graduation, working to help the community on the front-lines or continuing academically to pursue a focus in healthcare. Explore their day-to-day, how the pandemic has affected them, upcoming goals, advice for those interested in the public health field, and how D'Youville has impacted their career.

Need to know more? Explore our What is Public Health? page.

 

Leanne M. Schad

Public Health Sanitarian, Chemung County Health Department

Class of 2017

Where are you now?

I am originally from Buffalo, but right now I live in the Southern Tier of New York State as a Public Health Sanitarian for the Chemung County Health Department. The County seat is in Elmira, NY which is where my office is. My job involves work in many different programs. Since I work at a smaller health department where there are only four sanitarians, we are responsible for performing work in all the programs. This is opposed to other, larger departments in the state (such as back home in Erie County) where someone who has the same job as me may only be assigned duties in one or two of the programs that fall under the environmental health umbrella as deemed by the state.

One of the most vital programs is the residential lead program, which involves performing lead risk assessments at homes where a child six years of age or under had a high elevated blood lead level of 5 mg/L or above. That is the program I was most trained for after completing my undergraduate work at DYC because I focused a lot on how lead can be detrimental to human health. The topic of elevated blood lead levels and lead in the environment is was I wrote my senior thesis on.

What Public Health Issue are You Working On?

Right now, things are much different due to the pandemic. I am currently helping the public health nurses at my DOH and the state by being a contract tracer for COVID -19. That job involves calling individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 and asking about their medical history, symptoms and their close contact 2 days prior to experiencing symptoms-present day. We then explain their isolation period and what that entails and then continue to check in with them daily to monitor their symptoms and temperature and to make sure they are adhering to the isolation agreement. Additionally, we then register their close contacts who may have been exposed to the virus. Up until a month ago our health department was in charge of monitoring the positive cases and their contacts, but since we have had such an influx of cases recently, the state is helping us with our close contact case load. However, my usual working day involves working in the different programs, whether that be for rabies monitoring or designing a septic system that will be the best for the natural environment and the home it is servicing.

What Does a Typical Day Look Like?

During the pandemic a typical day involves doing case investigations for positive COVID cases and also doing daily monitoring for monitor people’s symptoms via video chat or phone. It is a lot of computer work that I am not use to! I am use to being out in the field conducting inspections! I conduct health inspections in the following programs: mobile home parks, temporary residences (hotels), pools/spas, tanning salons, food service establishments/mobile units like food trucks,

agricultural fairgrounds, daycare centers, campgrounds, septic systems and vending machines. We also oversee bite reports concerning rabies and send in rabies specimens for testing by the Wadsworth Center (NYS lab). I conduct complaint investigations regarding all those programs. I am involved in the ATUPA program (Adolescent Tobacco Use Prevention Act) where we conduct tobacco compliance checks to make sure stores are not selling cigarettes to minors or selling “looseies” (a term used to describe cigarettes being sold individually, out of the package) to any one of any age. We also conduct “stings” within that program. I also conduct lead risk assessments, where we assess houses for lead paint hazards if a child who resides there has an elevated blood level (EBL) of 5mg/L or above. This EBL level was lowered by NYS in October, 2019 from 15 mg/L to 5 mg/L. It has increased our cases by so much. Many county health departments are now hiring individuals just to perform lead investigations because of the influx in cases. My job is super fun and never dull or boring. You get to be out in the field A LOT. The paperwork that accompanies it is pretty easy once you learn. My job requires a lot of training and everyone who has my job goes to a class within a year of being hired with everyone else around the state who was hired that year. It is called basic environmental health and it is administered by the University of Albany. You go for 2 weeks, a week at a time for training. Additionally, my job requires you to have good people skills. You need to know how to be a team player and how to be friendly, but also assertive enough at the same time to be able to give violations if needed during inspections. You must also keep the friendly balance though to be able to keep that working relationship with operators and the public.

What is one thing that you learned in the public health program that you are using today?

Dr. Clay always had us participate in mock pandemic simulations on the computer during class. These simulations allowed us to make choices in the midst of a mock public health disaster. Depending on the choices we made, the program would determine the outcome of the simulation. What we learned is that things happen very fast during a public health disaster/emergency and you have to think to the best of your ability an act in a timely manner. You still may make mistakes because you may not be prepared for the situation, but if you look to your training and knowledge and work together as a team, you can try to make the best possible outcome happen. Sometimes you have to get creative. Dr. Clay always told us that it is not a matter of IF a pandemic will happen during our careers, it is a matter of WHEN it will happen and boy, was she right!

What is one piece of advice you have for students considering public health?

One piece of advice I have is to be open minded. Public health can be very specialized, but overall it is pretty broad because of the fact that public health is involved in so many different kinds of work. Whether that be OSHA and workers safety, the environment or health administration. It is everywhere! Another piece of advice I would say is be prepared to have to work for your dream job. I think sometimes students think you’re going to get your dream job right off the bat that is super great pay, but in most cases this just isn’t true. You have to be adaptive and teach yourself how to be patient and flexible. A huge piece of advice is be patient with yourself, keep being ambitious and working to the best of your ability and you’ll get there. Another thing is, college is very socially driven. I am a very social person who loves to be involved. In the “real world” it’s a little harder to make social connections sometimes, especially if you move away and especially during a pandemic. College and school settings in general sort of easily set up the atmosphere for those social connections to flourish, I have learned when you get into your working career, it looks very different. So, be prepared for that. I am lucky in that fact that my coworkers are like a big family and they have become my close friends. When interviewing for a job, ask if you can come to the job site and experience the work place atmosphere. You want to make sure you’ll be accepting a job at a place that has an atmosphere that will jive with your character and it will be a place where you’ll be able to succeed. Also, something else no one ever really told me and that we never ever learned in college, is in order to work for the state or county (this is also true in most states) if you want to work as a civil servant or for a government job you must search on the state and county websites. Sometimes those jobs will be listed on job sites, but not often. You should subscribe to the job opportunity email list for the respective county/state your interest in so you get notified when there is an examination for that job or a job opening. You must also take and pass a simple civil service test pertaining to your job choice in order to get /keep the job. You have to also make sure you qualify for the job prior to doing so and will have to provide proof of transcripts to make sure you have enough biology credits, etc. As a public health major (as long as you have 30+ hours of biology) you can be a public health sanitarian, you could also be a public health educator, clinic admin, public health technician, epidemiologist (depending on the county), water specialist and probably many more that I may not be aware of! There is also a general state public service test you can take that can match you with some jobs you may qualify for. I love my job and definitely recommend it and working as a public servant. It is a great work atmosphere and the benefits from the job such as health care and PTO are amazing!

 

Diamond Moseley

Doula in Training

Class of 2018

Where are you now?

I am currently half-way through my full spectrum online doula training with SMC Doulas. I also work as a distributor for Young Living, sharing essential oils and other health and wellness products. I have combined my love of health and wellness to educate and create my own wellness products as a doula for mothers and women engaging in self-care.

What Public Health Issue are You Working On?

My passion is community health, through education and empowerment which led me to maternal and infant health. I learned that any nation’s health can be measured through the health of its women. Educating women on their bodies, and empowering them to understand their cycles of life from adolescence onward will encourage women to make educated, thoughtful decisions that will ultimately affect everyone within the community.

What Does a Typical Day Look Like?

My typical day includes the study and application of my doula training texts. I will read various print and online texts, respond to forum posts and check-in with the few mothers and nurses I work with regarding any questions or concerns. I utilize my social networks to connect with other doulas, mid-wives, doula training programs, birthing centers and so on by engaging, sharing and inquiring about shared content. I highlight the wellness products I create and share as Diamond The Doula and as a Young Living distributor. I participate in a mostly self-directed day with the exception of work meetings, calls and assignments.

What is one thing that you learned in the public health program that you are using today?

One thing I learned in the public health program that I use today is that education holds value in any setting because of the outcomes it provides. Education is the determining factor when we make decisions in anything we do. An informed opinion is one with knowledge behind it, and when we’re knowledgeable we make the best decisions.

What is one piece of advice you have for students considering public health?

The piece of advice I’d like to share is that public health is all around you. For example, when you flush the toilet, wash your hands, throw away trash, cough into your elbow, engage in alternate side parking, take a sip of bottled water, and even take off your shoes before entering your home. All of these actions are grounded in public health and you probably didn’t even recognize it. Jump into any and every part that draws you in.

 

Megan Richeal

Americorps Economic Development Corp

Class of 2019

Where are you now?

Right now, I am serving in the AmeriCorps Economic Development Corps. My site is at Catholic Charities of Buffalo. My service consists of providing emergency financial services to people in need within Buffalo. These emergency financial services include; food pantry referrals, vouchers to purchase food at stores, bus tokens, utility bill assistance, rent assistance, and various other types of assistance. I also co-manage a financial literacy program, where my partner and I provide basic finance and budgeting classes to anyone who requests it, or is referred to us from other departments.

What Public Health Issue are You Working On?

I work on a few different social determinants of health. These include: economic stability - through our financial literacy classes, neighborhood and environment - through our rent and utility assistance to keep people in safe homes, and food security - through food pantry referrals and vouchers. It might seem like a roundabout way of working in public health, but the work we do can truly impact a person’s overall health and wellbeing.

What Does a Typical Day Look Like?

My typical day includes getting a list of clients that includes the type of assistance they need. I then give them a call and assess the situation to see how I can help. For financial literacy classes, we set up times based on the amount of people who are interested/referred to us, so that changes often. We do them through Zoom due to the pandemic, so it is always interesting trying to get it sorted!

What is one thing that you learned in the public health program that you are using today?

I learned in the public health program that everything seriously does impact a person’s health in some way shape or form. I see it all the time at my job. Someone doesn't have enough money to pay their electric bill, their electricity gets shut off, their breathing problems get worse because they have no air conditioning in the summer. It really all is a snowball effect.

What is one piece of advice you have for students considering public health?

I would encourage any students that are considering public health to explore all options and don't be afraid to try new things! I feel like I have learned the most from taking chances on opportunities that I was unsure of. I also highly recommend studying abroad! It has really helped give me talking points in interviews, and just really improved my life in general. Best of luck!

 

Analeeza Legget

MPH Student, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University

Class of 2019

Where are you now?

I am a first-year MPH student concentrated in food systems and health. I specialize in the One-Health and Planetary Health approaches.

What Public Health Issue are You Working On?

I study the links between human health, animal health and the state of the environment which we share, as seen in figure 1. I study the consequences climate change has over mental health using the planetary health theory in my coursework and integrated learning experience. Cornell University is committed to keeping students on campus in the fall semester, 2020. The Cornell MPH Program is leading the University in reopening and public health safety. I work as a COVID-19 Surveyor, interviewing students, faculty, and staff and observing their behaviors to advocate their safety on campus.

What Does a Typical Day Look Like?

My typical day is long, I take seven classes for a total of thirteen and a half credits. I read two public health related books a week, and attend one conference or workshop a week. I also live in a co-op where I cook and clean for my housemates twice a month.

What is one thing that you learned in the public health program that you are using today?

There are many things I had learned in my public health program that I use today: 

  1. It is always important to stay updated on current events
  2. Always accept feedback and learn to respect criticism
  3. Working along with Dr. Clay on disaster research as an undergrad has changed my life, I now have professors asking to meet with me to answer questions they have over my experiences in fieldwork. I am now headed towards a career in emergency preparedness and policy because of my experiences in the undergraduate program and the great academic advisor I had at D’Youville.

What is one piece of advice you have for students considering public health?

My advice to anyone looking to study public health would be to do it if you are passionate about helping your community! An education in public health will give you the ability to change the way you view the world, this systematic view will help you to work to help communities thrive.

 

Shantal Uwimana

Community Health Worker at REACH CNY Inc.

Class of 2019

Where are you now?

I am back home in Syracuse NY and I work as a Community Health Worker for Maternal and Infant Community Health Collaborative (MICHC) in Onondaga County at REACH CNY Inc.

What Public Health Issue are You Working On?

The public health issue that I am working on is to reduce maternal and infant mortality. As a community health worker, I help women access and navigate healthcare and other essential support services, provide individual education through home visits, breastfeeding support, smoking cessation counseling, infant care class, Circle of Security Parenting series, and other supportive services.

What Does a Typical Day Look Like?

Since COVID-19, my typical day is really simple. Wake up at 7am and get ready for work. Most of my home visits are completed over the phone or telehealth depending on the client. Most of my day is phone calls and paper work. Weekends is groceries and back home.

What is one thing that you learned in the public health program that you are using today?

One thing that I learned was that public health is important and it’s in everything that we do in life. For example, the crisis that we are going through right now. I am practicing everything that I can to keep the public and my family safe by following every step and taking the measures needed.

What is one piece of advice you have for students considering public health?

My advice is to make sure that you love what you doing and know what area you want to focus on. Public health is exciting and has a lot to offer. Talk to your professors, intern in the field that you are morst interesting in, and go on study abroad