After graduating from the Community Health Education program at UW La Crosse in 2013, I was fortunate to be hired as a Limited Term Employee (LTE) with Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC) in their Tobacco Free Living program. In this role, I was responsible for the local smoke-free housing initiative, educating adults about other tobacco products (this was before the e-cigarette craze), and advocating for state and local policies to reduce youth tobacco use.
Though my education prepared me for most of these responsibilities, I knew I had a desire to go back to school and hone my skills in policy development and advocacy. That’s when I found myself applying and being accepted to UW-Madison’s MPH program!
While in the program, I was proud to be Co-President of the PHSSO (Pop Health Sciences Student Organization). It was a great way to build relationships with faculty and other students, and to utilize my connections to build a bridge between local public health and the university.
Between my first and second year of the program, I had the chance to apply for a full-time position at PHMDC. I was offered the position and still work at PHMDC today as a Health Education Coordinator. My role has shifted quite a bit in the almost 7 years I’ve been with PHMDC. I still provide technical assistance around policy and outreach to our Tobacco Free Living Program, but much of my focus now is on housing insecurity and our current Community Health Assessment (CHA) and Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP).
The project I’ve really been most proud to be a part of while at PHMDC is our CHA/CHIP work. We have used this process to elevate the voices of those most impacted by health inequities. By shifting the decision making and leadership power from us (the local health department) to the community, we have been able to understand community assets and challenges in ways we haven’t before! I’ve had the opportunity to share this work with public health colleagues throughout the state and nation in the last few months, conducting breakout presentation sessions at the Wisconsin Public Health Association (WPHA) Annual Conference in May and the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) Annual Conference in July. We are really proud of the intentional steps we’ve take to make this process truly community driven and community owned!
In addition to my PHMDC work, I recently received my advanced certification as a Master Community Health Education Specialist (MCHES). In 2018 & 2019, I had the pleasure of being an instructor for Dr. Remington’s undergrad Intro to Global and Public Health course (PHS 370). This fall (as well as last fall), I’m serving as an advisor for MPH student group projects in Barb Duerst’s Evidence-Based Decision-Making (PHS 780) class! I really enjoy mentoring the new generation of public health professionals and sharing my personal public health journey with them.
Not only did the MPH program hone my knowledge and skills in systems, policy, and environmental change strategies, community engagement, and evaluation, it allowed me to build a network of public health folks. I rely on those relationships in many aspects of my personal and professional life! And with that, if anyone would like to connect and nerd out on anything public health, I’m happy to chat more!