Public Health Professional – Alyson M. Gray

April 14, 2014
Alyson Gray and her family

Alyson Gray and her family

Last week, we touched briefly on the vast world of Public Health, the next two posts will try to highlight that by featuring two public health professionals and their experience.

 

 

Health OU: What is your current job title?

  • My current job title is Project Data Manager.

 

HealthOU: What does your job entail?

  • I currently work for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, GA within the Center for Global Health as an independent contractor; and my work is based in the Domestic Unit of the Malaria Branch (Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria). As a Project Data Manager, I am primarily responsible for maintaining an accurate database and analyzing data for all patients treated with Artemether lumefnatrine (Coartem) in the United States. My involvement with surveillance reports for this particular drug has an ultimate goal of evaluating the safety and effectiveness of Coartem in pediatric and adult patients (U.S. and foreign residents) diagnosed with malaria. In addition to my main responsibilities, I have the opportunity to respond to public inquiries about malaria; participate in data management for other drugs used to treat malaria; and present findings at major scientific conferences in collaboration with Novartis.

 

HealthOU: How has your background as a Biology major been beneficial to you in your current position?

  • My background as a Biology major prepared me for several of my graduate school courses such as infectious disease epidemiology, environmental health, tropical infectious diseases, and cancer epidemiology. These classes, in turn, gave me the theoretical knowledge I needed to be efficient in the practice of public health. I strongly believe that my strong science background acquired at Oakwood helped me to better comprehend the lectures presented in graduate school, prepare scientifically sound research papers, and produce quality results in the field.

 

HealthOU: A large part of the reason students pursue healthcare is because they have a desire to help people.  How do you feel that your current position allows you the opportunity to fulfill this desire or have a positive impact on the lives of others?

  • I feel that my role at the CDC positively impacts the lives of others because I am contributing to a continual effort to keep the general population of our country healthy. Malaria was eradicated from the United States in the early 1950s, but it is still considered endemic in many of the world’s poorest nations. My work in the domestic unit of the Malaria branch (CDC) helps to keep the United States free from malaria transmission, and to identify areas of the world that need aggressive action toward eradication.

 

HealthOU: What were your academic goals and aspirations upon starting college?

  • When I started college, my goal was to become a pediatric cardiologist or a dermatologist. I had my plan all mapped out to attend medical school, complete my residency, and delve into the specialty of my choice. However, God had other plans for my life.

 

HealthOU: Did those goals change at all?  How so?  What were some of the factors that led to those changes?

  • My goals didn’t truly change until after graduation. During my junior and senior, I entertained the thought of pursuing a career in public health but I didn’t know what steps to take and I felt pressured to continue on the path to a career in medicine. After completing my first year of graduate school, I knew that public health was my calling.

 

HealthOU: Did you pursue any additional degrees or training after Oakwood / prior to obtaining your current position?

  • Yes. I attended the Ryals School of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and obtained a Master of Public Health degree. My concentrations during my graduate studies were International Health and Epidemiology.

 

HealthOU: Were there any resources or websites that you found helpful as you explored different options for your career?

  • Yes. I often visited the following websites while I was in graduate school to keep me informed and to explore different career options.

http://apha.org/

http://ceph.org/

http://www.aspph.org/

http://www.cdc.gov/

 

HealthOU: Were there any mentors or advisors who were helpful as you explored different career options?

  • Yes. While I attended Oakwood, Dr. Gullo was very supportive of my potential for a career in research. I took his research and independent study course, and he provided guidance on how to effectively collect data and analyze it. In addition, Dr. Schmidt’s meticulous way of checking the weekly article reviews prepared me, and gave me the keen eye I needed for submitting my work for publication. In graduate school, my advisor, Dr. Pauline Jolly, was very instrumental in my development. Her guidance in field epidemiology, data collection and analysis, and report writing, undoubtedly refined my skills in public health practice.

 

HealthOU: How did you specifically end up in your current position?

  • I originally worked as an Oak Ridge Institution for Science and Education (ORISE) fellow with the Division of STD Prevention, CDC for 9 months. Before my fellowship ended, I began looking for jobs and was selected to work for the Malaria Branch as an independent contractor. Before I landed the first fellowship, I diligently searched for positions for a period of 11 months. Persistence is certainly key when searching for positions after graduation.

 

HealthOU: Would you recommend your current profession?  Why? 

  • Absolutely. Public health is a career path that has so much to offer because there are a myriad of opportunities within the profession. You can work as an epidemiologist, college/graduate professor, medical doctor in the U.S public health service, health educator, environmental health scientist, or a health behavior specialist, just to name a few.

 

HealthOU: What are some of the most fulfilling / rewarding aspects of your job?

  • Now that I am married with a daughter, I am most appreciative of the flexibility of my work schedule. I have the option of working from home periodically and my colleagues are family friendly. In addition, having the chance to impact the health of large groups of people by the results that I produce through active surveillance is deeply rewarding.

 

HealthOU: What are you future professional aspirations / goals?

  • I plan to complete my academic studies by pursuing a PhD in Epidemiology and then continue to work for the CDC, possibly in infectious disease or cancer prevention. I am also exploring the idea of serving as an adjunct professor later in my career at the CDC.

 

HealthOU: What advice would you offer to a current undergraduate student who is questioning his or her interest in medicine and is unsure what direction to choose?

  • My advice would be to explore all of your options. There is nothing wrong with choosing a different branch of healthcare. Becoming a physician or a dentist is fantastic, but becoming a scientist or public health professional who conducts the research that medical practice is based on is just as fantastic. You can achieve whatever you desire!

 

HealthOU: What specific advice can you offer to someone who may be interested in pursuing a career in epidemiology?

  • First, majoring in any of the sciences or math will provide a strong foundation for graduate studies in Epidemiology. Secondly, choosing a graduate program that has a strong mentoring and research program will be essential in preparation for the field, lab, or office positions. Lastly, acquire as much experience as you can while in school. I suggest working part time for a state health department, volunteering with non-profit organizations, or assisting graduate professors with major research assignments.

 

 

Alyson Gray is a 2005 graduate of Oakwood University. She is a native New Yorker, who currently resides in Georgia with her family. Her favorite texts are:   “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Philippians 4:13; “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1. In her spare time she enjoys singing (praise team/choir), teaching piano, sports (basketball, swimming, working out), Pathfinder and youth ministry.

 


Happy National Public Health Week

April 7, 2014

 

 

Wikipedia aptly defines Public Health as the science of protecting and improving the health of communities through education, promotion of healthy lifestyles, and research for disease and injury prevention. It’s a dynamic and rewarding field of study with vast opportunities. The overall focus of public health is health promotion, and improving health and quality of life. One of the major differences between public health and clinical medicine is that public health tends to focus more on populations and groups rather than individual patients. This doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities for hands on, face – to face contact with the people you will serve. On the contrary public health professionals are instrumental in community projects and initiatives promoting breast feeding, condom distribution for control of sexually transmitted diseases, administering medications and providing education regarding tuberculosis etc.

Pursue public health if you have a genuine interest in working with people, preventative health and health promotion, have a desire to be hands on in the community, interest in policy making and having a positive effect on large groups.

Don’t get a Master’s Degree in Public Health simply because you didn’t get into professional school this year. Public Health is not a fall back plan. You’ll only incur unnecessary debt. Assess your application, and seek guidance in evaluating your application from mentors and advisors. See where you fell short and make the necessary adjustments for the upcoming application season. Most often, that means raising that entrance test score.

Check out this site for more valuable information on the field of public health.

Happy Public Health Week!


Alumni Profile – Dr. Kiesha Fraser Doh

March 17, 2014

Now is the time when acceptances are rolling in and with those acceptances financial aid paperwork and the harsh realities of the cost of higher education become more apparent.  While there are fewer options for funding your graduate education than there are for your undergrad years, options DO exist.  Here’s an opportunity to hear first hand from a former National Health Service Corps Scholar.

HealthOU:  How did you find out about the National Health Services Corp program 
Dr. Fraser Doh: I believe I first heard about the NHSC from watching a TV show where a physician went to practice in a rural area of Alaska. Or may have been from a colleague of my parents.

HealthOU:  At what point in your academic career did you apply to the program?

Dr. Fraser Doh: At the end of college I was looking for some way to ensure medical school was inexpensive. I applied to the Army Medical Corps program and the National Heath Service Corp.

HealthOU: What was the length of your commitment with the program? 

Dr. Fraser Doh: I committed 4 years to the NHSC.  Which is basically exactly how much time I worked for them.

HealthOU: Outside of the obvious financial benefit :) what value or benefits foes the program offer to prospective applicants?

Dr.Fraser Doh: A guaranteed job after residency.  Someone within the NHSC network will hire you and you may have multiple job offers thus allowing you some negotiation wiggle room.  Also the obvious benefits of helping in an underserved area where you know your services are most needed.   Possibly finding a job and a community for a lifetime

HealthOU:  Students who are interested in the program may be deterred thinking they will end up having to practice in an area where they won’t be happy living, what would you say to them?

Dr. Fraser Doh: You can live anywhere for 2-4 years.  The time will fly.  Most of my peers are spending the first 10-20 years out of medical school paying down debt, which hampers them when purchasing homes and cars due to debt to income ratio.

Plus, speaking a second language will be a useful marketing tool and could increase your chances of getting a job in some more competitive locations. But you should research the available options before applying.  Cities like Huntsville, AL have been on the list before.   Also inner city options are often available for Spanish speakers.

HealthOU: Can you explain the process from getting accepted to medical school, deciding to participate in the program to actually being enrolled and practicing in a NHSC shortage area?

Dr. Fraser Doh: Once you are accepted you will already be in your first year of medical school.  But the NHSC will retroactively take care of your loans.  Then you will get a stipend each month similar to the student loan stipend to take care of living expenses.  Because it is taxed it maybe slightly lower but you will often get a great income tax return each year upwards of a few thousand dollars.  You will have to sign an official contract saying if you default that you are liable for 3 times the cost of medical school, an obvious deterrent from defaulting.  In the last year of your residency you will get a few paid for trips and conference to job fairs just for the NHSC scholars.  All of your trips to interview for jobs will also be paid for. The NHSC also pays for moving expenses for you and your spouse from wherever.

HealthOU:  This program has a reputation for being competitive. what advice would you give to a prospective student?

Dr. Fraser Doh: To help with the competitive edge of the program show that you are interested in NHSC mission, that you have done your research and that you have staying power.  They are looking for physicians who will stay past their commitment.

HealthOU:  Has participating in the NHSC changed your perspective on healthcare delivery in America?  If so how?

Dr. Fraser Doh: Yes the NHSC has changed my perspective on Healthcare delivery in the US.  It has showed me that just like everything else the best healthcare is obtained when you have the most money.  It has also showed me that being low-income in one state vs. another can put you at a disadvantage.  I would rather be low-income in California as oppose to Georgia.  And Virginia is better than Georgia but not as great as California.

HealthOU:  Would you do it again if given the opportunity? Would you recommend the NHSC program to a prospective applicant

Dr. FrasierDoh: Yes I would do it again.  In the 4 years there were definite times that I wished I lived in a different location but in the end it worked.  My husband and I have a more well-rounded view of America from this experience.  My son spent some of his early years in a more nurturing smaller environment.  I have seen a variety of healthcare systems and now know some of the pros and cons to different systems.  Four years of my life was totally worth saving upwards of $200,000.  The cost of a small house.

I would recommend the job to a prospective applicant who was at least 90% sure they were not going to subspecialize.  Caveat I did go back to fellowship after the NHSC this was not my original plan but realized that another field of medicine was more suited for my lifestyle,  But that also worked well for me.  When I review my life choice of the NHSC and fellowship afterwards it was a great match and I am glad I chose that route. I know for myself personally with my retrospective lens that the NHSC would have been a great choice even if I had known I would want to specialize.

 

Dr. Fraser Doh currently resides in Georgia with her husband and two children.  After completing  her residency training in pediatrics at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital, she went on to fulfill her 4 year service commitment to the National Health Service Corps in  Virginia.  She then went on to complete subspecialty training in Pediatric Emergency Medicine and is currently a  Pediatric Emergency Medicine physician in Atlanta, Georgia.


Financing Professional School

March 5, 2014

You’ve did it!  You’ve been accepted to professional school!  You are one step closer to your dreams!  In the midst of that large acceptance packet, I’m sure there were instructions for filling out your FAFSA to apply for thousands and thousands of dollars worth of student loans.  The truth is, the majority of professional school students fund his/her education with loans without considering other options. While admittedly there are fewer options for “free money” for professional school, ( compared to undergraduate education) there are some.

  1. Federal and State Funding

For decades, the NHSC has offered full tuition benefits in exchange for 4 years of practice in an underserved area after completion of residency training.  These awards are limited to primary care specialities ( family medicine, obstetrics / gyn, pediatrics, internal medicine,  general dentistry) .  Next week, check out this month’s alumni profile to learn about Dr. Kiesha Fraser – Doh and her experiences as a NHSC scholar. To learn more about the NHSC scholars program, visit their website.

List of loan repayment and scholarship programs for medicine

Link to state and federal repayment options for dentistry

2. Military Service

Military service is another popular option, providing compensation for a commitment to serving your country by providing medical care of members of the armed forces and their families. Each branch of the military offers the Health Professions Scholarship program.  See the links below for details.

Army

Navy

Air Force

3. Institutional Scholarships

Most professional institutions have money ear marked for scholarships for students with exceptional academic performance or unmet financial need. Consideration for these scholarships is sometimes being done simultaneously while admissions committees are making decisions of who to accept.  These are usually not awards students apply for, but rather, get notified that they have received.  So, how do you qualify for these awards?  Some awards are merit based.  Other criteria for institutional awards vary, but may include: a demonstrated desire to practice in underserved areas, financial need, member of an underrepresented minority group.

Some schools are notorious for providing scholarships to students. For those of you who are preparing to apply this year or next year, you may want to consider these schools as you generate your list of schools to which you will apply.   The University of Virginia, Washington University in St. Louis, and Vanderbilt school of Medicine, Mayo Clinic are some of the institutions that offer merit based scholarships.  Also peruse this listing provided by USNews listing medical schools that offer  the most financial aid.

4. Private scholarships

There are many organizations will offer private scholarships.  These awards typically do not cover the total expense for professional education, but every little bit counts.  A good place to start is the professional organization for your desired career.

American Medical Association

American Dental association

National Medical Association / National Medical Fellowship     ( see this link as well )

Student National Medical Association

American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy

American Foundation for Pharmaceutical Education

Specific  Organizations and Awards include:

List of scholarships offered by private organizations in the field of medicine:

American Medical Association (AMA)

1. Minority Scholars Award and  Physicans of tomorrow scholarship program

Tylenol Future care scholarship

List of Scholarships from UCI’s financial aid department

American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine

List of scholarships offered by private organizations in the field of dentistry:

American Student Dental Association:

American Dental Education Association  

Colgate

List of several scholarshi p offers from niche.com

List of scholarships offered by private organizations in the field of pharmacy: http://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/nerdscholar/2012/top-scholarships-pharmacy-students/

(At first glance this list is outdated and seems useless, but it’s not.  If these organizations gave scholarships last year, they will likely be offering awards for the upcoming year.  The value of this link is that it identifies organizations that are willing to offer funds.  Check the actual websites for the organizations listed to see when the application cycle opens up for 2014 – 2015 awards)

Tylenol Future care scholarship


Junior and Senior Spring Timeline

February 5, 2014

Junior Year Spring Timeline

-        Develop your game-plan and timeline for preparation for the next administration of the admission exam for your field of interest.  For those planning to retake the MCAT in preparation to be a part of the 2015 entering class, you should have a detailed schedule / study plan for the next few months.  If you have not been preparing well, I would reconsider taking the March of April tests, unless your performance on practice exams has been near the average MCAT score for students who are accepted (which has hovered around 31 for the past few years).  Same goes for students planning to take the PCAT, DAT or OAT.  If you’re not ready (  based on your performance on practice exams) don’t take the test!

-        Participate in some meaningful clinical experiences to provide you with inspiration for your personal statement and also for the extra-curricular activities portion of your application.

-        Start finalizing your list of schools you are interested in applying.  I say finalize because the initial list should have been started sometime last semester.  If not, start working on it NOW.  Applications are costly, so you want to put careful thought and consideration into the schools you plan to apply to.   Check out an old post to give you some guidance on how to proceed.

-        If you haven’t already, start working on your personal statement!!!  Don’t put this off.  It will take you longer to write than you think and you will need time to get it reviewed by multiple people, edited and revised, and reviewed again; all in time for an on time application.

-        Gently remind faculty members about your letters of recommendation!  I say, remind, because again, this should have already been done.  If not, request them today.  Your faculty members are inundated with requests for LOR, make sure that yours is one of the first one’s they will write.

Senior Year Spring Timeline

-        Keep preparing for your interviews.  Familiarize yourself with common interview questions and have a framework for your responses.  Certain questions, you can expect to have, so try and be prepared.  Others, will be completely random J and you’ll just have to do your best.  Online, there are many resources with samples of both.  Look them over and be prepared. Consider having someone do a mock interview with you.  Sure, the faculty members haven’t advertised that that’s a service they offer, but I can’t think of one faculty member who would turn you down if you asked them.  Try it! You have nothing to lose! Preparing for your interviews means more than prepping for the questions.  It means prepping your look and also your knowledge about the school.  So don’t neglect those areas either.

-        Honestly assess the likelihood of being accepted to the professional school of your choice during this admission cycle.  Start thinking about your plan B if with guidance and honest evaluation, you do not think your efforts will be successful this time around. I hate to sound discouraging, but only about 50% of total first time applicants to professional schools are accepted.  That’s a huge number!  If to date you have not received secondary applications, or interviews, start to consider what your options for next year would be in the event that you are not accepted.

-        For those of you who have been accepted, consider your funding options for professional school.  The majority of medical students take out exorbitant amounts of student loans to cover tuition and living expenses.  Admittedly, the competition for funding professional school is a tad bit steeper than acquiring funding for undergraduate studies, but there are still options to consider.  Begin to do some exploration on your own and look out for a future post listing some options HealthOU was able to dig up.

-        For those of you toting around multiple acceptances, congratulations!  Now you have to whittle them down to one final pick.  Factors to consider: location, cost, curriculum / teaching style.  There will be a post in the next month of two with some tips to consider as you narrow your choices down to one final school!


Freshman and Sophomore Spring Timeline

February 2, 2014

Contrary to popular belief, preparing for admission to the prehealth school of your choice doesn’t start in one’s junior year.  For you guys, it starts right now!  The habits you form or break now, and energy and work you put in during these two very important years will help to propel you to the future you desire as a full fledged doctor / dentist / chiropractor / pharmacist / epidemiologist, etc etc.  Make this time count!  Use these years well, and the requirements during your junior and senior years will be so much easier.

Freshman Spring Timeline

- Keep those grades up.

- Seek out opportunities to demonstrate your interest in the field of your choice.  Shadowing and volunteering during this time period will also help you those who are still undecided about which path to take.

- Finalize your plans for the summer! Apply to summer programs that provide research experience, exposure to the health professions.  Be sure to select summer opportunities or research programs that are related to your field of interest.  If you opt for a program that is not overtly medical, be sure to pursue something that demonstrate a prolonged interest in another activity, but still make time for something healthcare related as well.

-Consider working as a CNA, scribe, phlebotomist, or volunteering at a hospital, clinic during the summer.  This will provide exposure to the medical field.

- Start working on an activity journal where you document the health related activities you have participated in.  This will serve as a good foundation when you prepare to write your personal statement. Start your journal now, and keep adding it to as you engage in a new activity.

Sophomore Spring Timeline

-       Seek out opportunities for leadership on campus, preferably in an organization associated with your field of interest, but truly, any leadership role on campus will be regarded positively on your application.

-       Keep your grades up!  A good academic record is an important part of a competitive application.

-       Finalize your summer plans!!!!  If you don’t have any plans, make some immediately. Many students devote the summer after their sophomore year to test preparation, research, regular shadowing etc.  The bottom line is to use this valuable time well!  You do not want to be sitting at home doing nothing, or working at the Gap so you can get a good discount.  This time is for doing something that will support your application to medical, dental, graduate, pharmacy school etc.  There are many PAID research opportunities available.  Check out this post for an extensive list, but be sure to check today because deadlines are fast approaching or have past for quite a few of them.

-       If you are planning to devote your time to test prep, then devote your time to test prep, be that with a class or on your own.  This is one of the most important tests you will ever take. You want to be prepared so you can get the best possible score!  This may mean not working full time during the summer.  Trust me, a competitive score on the MCAT, DAT, OAT, PCAT, or GRE is worth more than any summer employment can pay you.


Believe in Yourself

January 23, 2014

Hey Pre-Health Students!  Welcome back from your holiday break.  HealthOU hasn’t forgotten you.  Look out for the spring timeline for freshman – seniors in the next week.  Until then, remember:

belive-in-yourself

 

 

Have a great weekend!

 

p.s.  As HealthOU preps content for this upcoming semester, we would love your input / questions regarding specific aspects of the application process, and life as a prehealth student so we can provide the best advice / content tailored to your needs.  Leave us a comment, or email us at healthou.org@gmail.com!  Hope to hear from you.


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