Public Health Alumni Spotlight
In the ever-evolving landscape of public health, passionate individuals are at the forefront, working tirelessly to address global health challenges, promote well-being, and improve the lives of communities worldwide. These dedicated professionals are the unsung heroes who work diligently behind the scenes, making impactful changes in our society. Amongst the public health scene are five SFU alumni, who have embarked on inspiring journeys, each contributing uniquely to the field.
Continue reading for the stories of Lucy Rojas, Christine Yakicic, Makenna Topka, Joe Theiss, and Hannah Anderson!
Occupation: Global Health instructor with Saint Francis University’s Public Health Department, and Health Care Educator with the Air Force 18th Medical Group with their Education and Training department at Okinawa, Japan.
Lucy graduated with her bachelor’s (2018) and master’s degree (2020) from Saint Francis University. Her focus is education, and she believes that sharing knowledge can positively impact our society. Public Health access and education are a luxury for many. Lucy stated that she can use the knowledge and skills learned through the PUBH program to bridge the gap in services and change health perspectives in impoverished communities. Education improves health because it encourages and enables a healthy lifestyle. Education can create opportunities for better health.
How has the SFU PUBH program helped prepare you to enter the workforce?
I was born and raised in the developing nation of Honduras. Having a different perspective of what health means, the PUBH program with SFU helped me understand all the different aspects involved with Public Health. One key component from the program that stood out was learning about how culture plays an important role in determining health. My learning is not just based on lectures and classwork, it is from real work experiences like projects, fieldwork, and volunteering. The core classes were extremely helpful for a student like me who came from a different background. Prior to the program, I had zero exposure to epidemiology, biostatistics, or public health initiatives.
What was your favorite part of the SFU PUBH program?
The opportunities with the Public Health program are remarkable. One of my favorite parts of the program was the opportunity to participate directly with vulnerable communities during my trip to Costa Rica with H.U.G.S. That was a real-life experience where I gained the most valuable understanding of what it is like to work with less privileged communities. Another great part of the Public Health Program was the support I got during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting from the School of Public Health during my Internship with the America Red Cross in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
What was your favorite thing about the SFU Campus community?
I got a close sense of community from faculties and the smaller class size. I really like how our classwork is discussion-based, real-life scenarios of situations that can happen in the field. The professors were great with lots of knowledge about the program, which really helped me to get out of my comfort zone and have a unique experience at the School of Public Health.
What advice do you have for students who might be thinking about a degree in public health?
Keep an open mind and be prepared to learn from the classroom and outside. You will not just learn from your professors but also from real-life experience, classmates, and your community. A degree in Public Health can provide a large range of different paths that can take you to “Become that someone.”
How has a public health degree helped you “Become that someone……?”
I knew I wanted to be a healthcare provider but was unsure of the route or my next steps. Now, I am happy with how my career has turned out in a rewarding field. Every day, I have the opportunity to impact someone, whether it is one individual or at a group level.
Occupation: Program coordinator for the Childbirth Education Program for Inova Health System in Virginia.
How has the SFU PUBH program helped prepare you to enter the workforce? The PUBH program at SFU helped prepare me for grad school and the workforce. It was especially helpful in preparing me for grad school by ensuring that I knew all of the essentials of public health and by giving me the option to pursue an MPH. It prepared me for the workforce by giving me the resources to research topics properly and showing me how to use critical thinking skills.
What was your favorite thing about the SFU Campus community? My favorite part about campus was the size- going to a smaller university allowed me to have one-on-one time with professors if needed.
What advice do you have for students who might be thinking about a degree in public health? My advice would be to push through! It may be tough sometimes, but the end result is worth it.
How has a public health degree helped you “Become that someone……?” My degree has helped me become that someone by giving me a boost in the workforce. It helped me get a PRN position at a vaccine clinic and a full-time position at the same hospital.
Occupation: Administrator at Shadyside Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation.
Makenna is a spring 2022 graduate of SFU, who is currently enrolled in the Masters of Public Health program at Saint Francis.
How has the SFU PUBH program helped prepare you to enter the workforce? The public health program helped prepare me for the workforce by giving me first-hand experience. The program also had a paradigm of classes that gave me all the knowledge necessary to begin my career.
What was your favorite part of the SFU PUBH program? My favorite part of the SFU public health program was the field experiences. These allowed me to see exactly what I wanted to do with my degree.
What was your favorite thing about the SFU Campus community? My favorite thing about the SFU campus community is how kind and helpful everyone was. Professors and other students on campus were always happy to help with anything.
What advice do you have for students who might be thinking about a degree in public health? Narrow down what exactly you want to do in the public health field. There are so many different avenues you can take with a degree in public health, so it is beneficial to figure out what you want your career to be.
How has a public health degree helped you “Become that someone……?” My public health degree has helped me to “Become that someone” by teaching me about empathy and compassion for others. I use this degree to try and help others in a less fortunate situation or who cannot help themselves.