Amy Behrens

Amy Behrens Health Communications Graduate 2008

Amy Behrens '08

Tell us about your current job.
I am currently working as a Senior Health Writer at a small company called CommunicateHealth in Northampton, MA. The company is a health education and communication firm specializing in improving health literacy through user-centered design, policy, research, and content development. I mostly write and design consumer health information for the web. It's been a great experience. I've gotten to work on projects including HealthyPeople.gov and healthfinder.gov. I am currently working on a new project with CDC, HUD, and EPA about healthy homes, which will be a website aimed at getting people to focus on how their home affects their health and how to catch problems early, when they are easier to address.

What did you study as an undergraduate?
I went to Georgetown School of Nursing and Health Studies, where I got my BS in Health Studies, concentrating in Women's Health.

How did you decide to get a degree in Health Communication?
After I graduated, I went to work for a company called John Snow, Inc. in Boston. While I was working there, I became more interested in health education and health promotion. I knew that I didn't want to get a Master's in Public Health (MPH) because it was too similar to my undergraduate degree, and I wanted to specialize in an emerging field that could directly impact people. I did some searching around and found the Health Communication program at Tufts and it felt like a good fit.

Why did you choose Tufts?
There were a couple reasons why I chose Tufts. One of the main reasons was that I was working full-time, so the ability to complete the course work in the evenings was a huge plus. Having the program in Boston was also a key factor in my decision.

When I saw how small the Tufts program was, I knew there would be a lot of interaction with professors and classmates, which attracted me to the program. While I think it is important to learn about theory and research, the unique focus on applied learning that the Tufts program has was another reason why I chose Tufts.

Did you move to Boston to attend Tufts?
No.

How feasible was your approach to the program?
I worked full-time at John Snow, Inc. while I completed my Master of Science in Health Communication (MS/HCOM) degree and I continued to work there after I graduated. Looking back on it now, I probably was taking on too much, but I don't regret it at all. I did the program in three years because I was doing it part-time. My company and Tufts were really supportive of me doing both, though, as it improved both my work and my schoolwork.

What type of position did you take after graduation?
I continued to work at John Snow, Inc. after I graduated. While I was in the MS/HCOM program, I had a Staff Associate position managing clinician training programs, but when I was close to being done with my degree I was promoted to Consultant. As a Consultant, I was able to take on more health communication projects. I created online courses, developed plain language materials for consumers, developed websites, and designed surveys.

How do you think your Tufts degree prepared you for working in the field?
I was definitely prepared for working in the field - I know that I would not have the same career I have today if it weren't for my MS/HCOM degree. The big advantage of the Tufts program is that it gives you a really diverse background in health communication from patient-provider communication to mass media campaigns. I felt prepared to deal with all the different scenarios I have encountered in my work

Is there any additional information that you would like to share with prospective students?
I personally decided to take a course to see if it was a good fit and I would encourage people to do that before they commit to the whole process of graduate school. It's important to make sure that health communication is right for you.

Also, I am a big advocate of getting experience in the field before starting the program! It makes what you are learning in the classroom more meaningful.

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