Megan (Peterson) Christofield
Year of Graduation: 2007
Major(s): Peace Studies
Current Position: Implants Access Officer and Proposal Manager, Jhpiego (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health)
Please give a brief description of your current position:
Under a grant we were awarded from the Gates Foundation, I coordinate a number of activities to help improve access to contraceptive implants in Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia, and South Africa. This includes working with our staff in the field and other organizations invested in family planning to develop high caliber, context-appropriate training materials for health care providers, working with country teams to resolve program challenges, and developing and documenting unique and/or innovative approaches to support health workers and facilities providing these services. This involves periodic travel to the countries where we work. I also help the organization apply for new funding opportunities to expand our reach.
What path did you follow to arrive at your current job?
My interest in global health developed late in my first year at CSB/SJU, at which point I opted to do the Peace Studies major to learn more about human rights, social justice, and other important elements to the field. I was then part of the inaugural CSB/SJU learning trip to Masaka, Uganda as a sophomore, and as a junior studied abroad in the South Africa program. Upon my return from South Africa I conducted my Peace Studies internship with Minneapolis-based Children's HeartLink, a non-profit working in global health, where I learned invaluable lessons about how non-profits function. In my senior year, I elected to apply a more academic lens to these experiences, and worked with Professor Ron Pagnucco on an independent study, exploring the relationship between health and human rights through some of the sentinel texts on the subject. After graduating from CSB/SJU, I joined the U.S. Peace Corps and served as a community health volunteer in rural, Southwestern Uganda. By then it was clear I'd affirmed my interest in global health and knew it was a career path that would keep me always learning, engaged, and challenged. I took my GREs and applied to graduate schools while still in Uganda and a few months after finishing my Peace Corps service, began the Masters of Public Health (MPH) program at the #1 ranked Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Upon graduation I landed a job with an affiliate of Johns Hopkins, Jhpiego, a large NGO known for its leadership in improving maternal health, as well as reproductive health, HIV prevention, and more, around the globe.
What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?
Travel! Read up. Conduct informational interviews with those in the field.
What skills are important in your field?
Patience, cultural adaptability, foresight, resourcefulness, foreign languages.
What is the most satisfying/rewarding part of your job?
Seeing the impact of our projects on improving the health and well-being of people around the globe is certainly rewarding, but I get a lot of job satisfaction out of the constant problem solving I engage in with our country teams- it feels good to surmount a challenge using limited resources, particularly when one gets to learn something new in the process! I have the great luxury of working in a field that feeds my passions, making work feel less like 'work' and more like the logical topic to which to devote my attention. There's a great quote from Howard Thurman I have posted in my office, "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."
I've witnessed people in this field who purely enter in to "make the world a better place," but without the passion for the work that comes with that mission, and they often fail or burnout from their misplaced efforts. Follow your heart and your interests!
Development work can be emotionally taxing and over the years I feel as though my heart has toughened in ways I don't necessarily like. Living abroad such as while a Peace Corps Volunteer will change your perceptions of the world and it can be difficult to return and relate to those who haven't had that experience.
What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career?
Every experienced shaped my path in important ways, but those that stand out the most include: study abroad, Peace Corps, and obtaining my MPH.