When I received my acceptance letter to the MPH program in March 2011, I was so eager to begin, I wished classes would start right away. Unfortunately, that was not possible – I had to wait until fall. In a way, this was a blessing because it gave me the opportunity to find other ways to dive right in. I’ll share a few things I’ve found very valuable:
Joining professional organizations: I immediately joined the American Public Health Association (APHA) and its local affiliate, the Public Health Association of New York City (PHANYC). PHANYC is a very active organization with a variety of events throughout the year and numerous committees that meet on a monthly basis. The first event I attended was a career forum featuring public health leaders in academia, government and the military. Even though I hadn’t begun my program yet, it was very inspiring to learn about future career or educational options and make professional contacts. (We have another career forum coming up on 4/18, click here for info.)
Connecting with professors: I read professors’ profiles on my school’s website to select a few that matched my areas of interest – nutrition and policy. I contacted them to see if there was any way for me to get involved in any of their current work. One of the professors connected me with the research coordinator of the Healthy CUNY projects, an initiative to make CUNY the healthiest urban university in the nation by 2016. Over the course of a year, I spent a few hours a week working on a variety of projects such as literature reviews, writing an article on sugar-sweetened beverages, and developing promotional strategies to increase local Green Cart sales.
Making a to-do-list: I created an easily accessible public health to-do-list in Google Docs, which I frequently update and review. I researched potential internship and fellowship programs and compiled a list with their websites and application deadlines. I also added information regarding the Certification in Public Health (CPH) exam, including testing dates. Although exact deadline dates change slightly from year to year, it is still helpful to know general timeframes. My list also includes people I’ve met and want to follow up with. When things get hectic with classes, this list is a lot more helpful than my more short-term focused personal calendar.
Joining Twitter: Twitter is a very useful tool for keeping informed and connecting with new people. I follow major blogs and newspapers, public health professionals, chefs, educational and health promoting organizations, politicians and journalists. In the next two weeks I’ll be tweeting from the National Health Promotion Summit in Washington, D.C. and the New York State Public Health Association annual meeting in Troy, NY. Follow me on Twitter @JMCelio, I would love to hear from you!