Tell us about your current job.
Currently, I serve as the Director of Regional Marketing for over twenty ambulatory surgical centers. My centers are focused on the prevention and treatment of gastrointestinal disorders, such as colon cancer, esophageal cancer, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). My role as the marketing director is to stay on top of the evolving healthcare landscape of each market; to research and recommend new procedures in the gastrointestinal space; and to communicate condition and procedure awareness and treatment information to diverse populations.
What did you study as an undergraduate?
I doubled majored in journalism and psychology at Penn State.
How did you decide to get a degree in Health Communication?
My heart had always been set on being a print journalist. While I was interested in health and wellness, the two fields rarely crossed over for me in college. It was while I was working as a risk management intern in the National Park Service that I saw how communication could be used as a powerful lifesaving tool, and I wanted what I contributed to the park, and to society, to have an impact. To achieve meaningful health interventions, I knew I needed to expand my skill set, which was heavily weighted towards hard news reporting and academic research. A degree in Health Communication—which would teach me communication theory, biostatics, epidemiology, and risk communication—was the next logical step.
How did you learn about the Tufts program, and what made you choose it?
Coming from a large university in undergrad, I sought a program that had a small, hands-on classroom approach. Prior to applying, I was able to sit down for an informational interview with a professor, who then gave me a personal tour of the campus. The Tufts program clearly emphasized relationship building with both faculty and other students. It felt like a tight-knit community. Moving forward in my career, I wanted a program that allowed me to network and form bonds in the healthcare field. Because of the smaller class sizes, you aren’t part of a degree factory in which you invest; at Tufts, the program invests in you. I still keep in touch with both faculty and fellow classmates.
Did you work as a grad student, and how feasible was your approach to the program?
I did have a full-time job most of the time that I was in the program, and it was challenging. Although the program does offer a good selection of night classes, juggling work, assignments, classes, and eventually, an ALE, you have to develop superior time management skills. Having a full-time job also limited my ability to gain perspective into all future health communication career paths. During the semesters in which I was not employed full-time, I completed a few short-term internships to experience different organizations and assess best fit. Health Communication offers many varied paths, so it is important to understand where you can best apply your skills and knowledge. I wanted to see a range of possible fields, from non-profits to school systems to corporate communications. However, this was only achievable as I was not employed full-time during these periods.
Tell us about your ALE - where did you do it, and what are some of the most valuable skills that you gained?
My ALE was a project for Healthy Waltham, a group devoted to bringing healthy habits to the Waltham community, with a special focus on the public school system. They were undertaking the monumental task of assisting the high school in bringing healthy options to the cafeteria in an affordable, sustainable way. What started as a project to communicate current lunch options to students quickly became a project focused on capacity-building for the students and bringing them autonomy of choice. The project was well-received by both the school and the students, and resulted in a grant to the school to implement some of the changes I recommended. The process was more than just a glimpse into how health communication applies to community initiatives, it was a chance to make a real, positive change for my target population.
If different than your current position, what was your first job after graduation?
I started working at my former position just as I began my ALE, which I only recommend to people who don’t value sleep or sanity. I was hired at a healthcare analytics company, with the intent that I would be a proposal writer. However, right after I started, the marketing department reorganized and I ended being more involved in corporate communications. I was a Manager of Strategic Communications when I left the company to be a Director of Regional Marketing for my new company.
What are some ways in which your Tufts degree has equipped you to work in the field?
The biggest lesson I took away from the program is how to be analytical. Not critical, but how to objectively look at a problem in terms of demographics, barriers, and stakeholders, and determine the best methods for communicating with a target population. It’s not enough to want to broadcast a message to an audience, interventions must be strategic to have impact.
Do you have any advice for current students, or prospective students considering the Tufts MS in Health Communication program?
Bring your creativity and try everything. There’s no set path for MS HCOM graduates, and the program allows you to explore different health sectors. What makes this program so valuable is that it builds on your own personal interests and strengths, rather than giving you a prescribed skill set and career path. It’s perfectly alright to come into the program with the intent to leave as a research associate, but then become a social media specialist, a health educator, or a proposal writer. Take advantage of the Tufts network and try as many different fields and organizations as you can.