Spring 2022 brought two milestones for Master of Public Health (MPH) graduate Catherine Washington: a new degree and a new full-time position. “I went into the job hunt with a very diverse set of experiences and skills. MSU’s MPH program provides opportunities for you to research new topics, develop new skills, and explore the day-to-day of other career paths,” said Washington.
Throughout her life, Washington always possessed a strong love for health and the well-being of others. She discovered a passion for research as she earned her undergraduate degree in neuroscience at Michigan State University. After graduating with her bachelor’s degree, Washington ultimately decided that she wanted to tap into her love of research and social activism and apply for job positions in the public health field.
She was encouraged to apply for MSU’s flexible, online program while working as a Research Associate at the University of Michigan’s Center for Sexuality and Health Disparities. “I knew a Master of Public Health would allow me to combine all my interests - social activism, research, health, and psychology,” she said.
When she reached the stage of beginning her practicum, Washington thought about what was missing from her public health skillset and decided to work on something slightly outside of her comfort zone. “It’s important to cast a wide net when it comes to jobs you apply for,” she said.
Her practicum experience at Oakland County Health Division provided an opportunity to expand her public health expertise and learn more about the complexities of informatics and data modernization. “This wide net allowed me to tailor my resume and cover letter to each individual position, and I think that set me apart from other candidates.”
Public Health Informatics
Now, Washington is using her love for research and her new informatics knowledge as a Public Health Informatician for the Michigan Public Health Institute (MPHI). She serves as a Program Coordinator leading the modernization of Michigan’s Disease Surveillance System (MDSS). This CDC-sponsored data modernization initiative aims to update core public health data and surveillance infrastructure across state and federal levels.
“Working at MPHI has been incredible,” she said. “Informatics is a new field to me, and it's been rewarding to have a job where I'm learning more about it every day. My practicum gave me a chance to apply the terminology used in my epidemiology classes, so I went into my new job with a clear understanding of using the MDSS. I feel fully prepared to contribute to this work, and that's a great feeling.”
Her advice for MPH students?
Don’t be afraid to diversify your public health experience.
“Take advantage of these opportunities, and you’ll be able to enter the job market with confidence and a lot to offer your future employer,” she said. “MSU's MPH program gave me a foundation that I'm using to learn so much every day at MPHI.”