Ally Carlton-Smith

Ally Carlton Smith

Ally Carlton-Smith, '14

Tell us about your current job.
I currently work as editor of an online health magazine for high school students called Student Health 101. Our goal is to improve the health and wellness of students through engaging, evidence-based content. We cover a variety of topics, including physical activity, nutrition, mental health, sleep, substance use, and money management. The company had already hired another Tufts HCOM alumni as editor of their college edition. They were impressed with her skills, which opened the door for me.

What did you study as an undergraduate?
I studied Communication with a minor in Anthropology at San Diego State University.

How did you decide to get a degree in Health Communication?
I’ve always been interested in health and public health. In college I went on a few volunteer trips to Latin America where we implemented public health projects in rural communities. That’s when I started to think about public health as a potential career path. After moving to Boston and working a few odd jobs, I knew I wanted to go back to school for a graduate degree in something health-related. Health communication seemed like a perfect marriage between my interests in writing/marketing/communication and health. 

How did you learn about the Tufts program, and what made you choose it?
Google! I was researching potential public health graduate degrees and the health communication programs in Boston came up in my search. I knew I wanted to get my degree in person rather than online, so I narrowed my search to Tufts and Emerson. I spoke on the phone with the program directors and was impressed by the career opportunities available to health communication graduates. I ultimately chose Tufts because I felt like they had a great alumni network and they put a lot of effort into helping students find jobs. 

Did you work as a grad student, and how feasible was your approach to the program?
Yes, I was lucky enough to get a job as a research assistant with one of the health communication professors. I had a great experience, learned a ton, and was able to put a lot of what I was learning in the program into practice. Working and going to grad school at the same time is a hefty task, but it’s manageable. Financially it makes a lot of sense, and although I was busy, I never felt like either my work or my studies suffered. I did have to make some social sacrifices by doing a lot of schoolwork on the weekends, but I made a habit of studying all day and leaving myself room for relaxation and fun at night. 

Tell us about your ALE - where did you do it, and what are some of the most valuable skills that you gained?
I did my ALE at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Dr. Viswanath’s health communication lab. It was great to be working with some of the leading health communication experts who happen to be right here in Boston. My project was focused on tobacco cessation in India, which was great for me because I love global health.  

What are some ways in which your Tufts degree has equipped you to work in the field?
My degree has helped me immensely in my work. Every article we publish at Student Heath 101 is informed by health communication theories and practices. My training at Tufts also taught me how to assess the quality of academic research studies and to interpret them for a lay audience, which has been incredibly valuable. 

Do you have any advice for current students, or prospective students considering the Tufts MS in Health Communication program?
To prospective students, I’d say go for it. Having a master’s degree makes a big difference when going after jobs in public health. I’d also say to try to continue working (even if it’s not full-time) to offset some of the costs of your education. 

To current students, connect with your professors, your classmates, and the people who work in career services. Go to career services’ workshops, networking events, and get help on your résumé. The librarians can also be a huge resource in helping you find relevant research for your projects. Make sure you take advantage of the services and network available to you.

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