Year of Graduation: 2005
Major(s): Peace Studies and Political Science
Current Position: Registered Nurse Case Manager, Larkin Street Youth Services, San Francisco, CA, Graduate Degrees: MS in nursing (University of California, San Francisco), MPH (University of Minnesota)
Please give a brief description of your current position:
I serve as the nurse at a program for homeless youth ages 18-24 who are living with HIV. I work with the young people to establish and maintain primary medical care, increase adherence with antiretroviral medication regimens, build skills to transition into the adult health care system as well as provide urgent care triage services to the clients. I also help support the primary health care needs of the youth by drawing routine labs, administering immunizations, and providing intensive health education, along with other services. A large part of my job includes public and community health responsibilities. I collaborate with public health department staff to report communicable diseases and assist with patient notification and treatment. I also rely on local epidemiologic data to track trends in HIV incidence and prevalence in San Francisco along with other diseases relevant to HIV care, including tuberculosis. The day-to-day clinical components of my job inform my public health practice, including contributing to the planning of local HIV prevention and treatment services for youth. As in all of public health, data are a critical aspect to my work. I collect, analyze and report on patients' medication adherence and HIV viral load to get a picture of how our work helps to improve the health of the clients as well as lowering HIV transmission risk in the community through reduced community viral load, which is a major goal of the local public health department.
What path did you follow to arrive at your current job?
I did a year of service as an AmeriCorps volunteer after graduation, where I worked as a case manager for children and youth who had experienced homelessness. I continued on for another year as a staff member managing the supportive programming for children before beginning the University of Minnesota's MPH program. While in graduate school I worked as a research assistant on a community-based healthy youth development project. I also volunteered and did an internship with the Minnesota AIDS Project. These experiences helped me build skills in program planning, implementation, and evaluation and exposed me to networks of public health professionals who were collaborating to achieve shared goals. After I completed my MPH training, I worked as a program associate on a consortium of HIV prevention grants where I was able to further develop my public health skill set through grant writing, intervention implementation and monitoring, data analysis, and community collaboration. These opportunities helped me develop both the professional expertise and network required for my current position.
What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?
Take advantage of your liberal arts education. Public health is a diverse field and requires people with a variety of expertise and skill sets, from microbiology and psychology to community organizing and policy advocacy. Having a broad educational foundation will allow you to work in multiple settings before eventually identifying an area of interest for specialization. Community involvement and volunteering is another invaluable way to learn first-hand about health disparities and the innovative work local individuals, communities, and health departments are doing to improve the public's health and wellness.
What skills are important in your field?
Critical thinking skills are essential in public health. You have to be able to explore a problem from multiple perspectives and be creative yet methodical in your collaborative efforts to solve it. Critical thinking also enables you to analyze how the economic, social, political, and economic systems interact to influence the health of the population, which is central to a population-based approach to health promotion.
What is the most satisfying/rewarding part of your job?
I enjoy the collaborative nature of my work that allows me to work closely with patients, other health care providers, public health professionals, and community activists on a daily basis. It is also energizing to see your contributions to a project translate into meaningful change, whether as a new health program or improved health outcome.
Public health can feel a bit daunting at times without a supportive community and long-term view of change. Public health achievements happen over months or years, not overnight.
What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career?
In addition to the liberal arts education, take advantage of the learning opportunities that take place outside the classroom: experiential education, international education, alternative spring break, internships and volunteering. All of those opportunities allow you to connect academic theories and classroom learning to on-the-ground work. Doing so will provide you with a lot more insight into your personal and professional values and passions that you can draw upon as you take your next steps after graduation from CSB/SJU.