Jess Geller

Jessica Geller Health Communication graduate 2010

Jess Geller, '10

Tell us about your current job.
I am a Ph.D. student in Clinical Health Psychology at the University of Colorado Denver. I am also a Research Assistant in my advisor's lab. Our research focuses on health disparities in the prevention, control, and treatment of cancer among minority populations by addressing psychological, cultural, and social factors. We conduct research in both community and medical settings.

What did you study as an undergraduate?
I have a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and a Minor in Business Administration from the University of Oregon.

How did you decide to get a degree in Health Communication?
I had lived and worked for several years as a Sales Manager for a bilingual business intelligence service in Santiago, Chile using my International Studies and Business degrees. While living in Chile, it became evident to me that diabetes was a prominent public health issue among Latino populations. I had always been passionate about health issues and, as a result of this experience, wanted to do something more meaningful with the communication skills I had developed. I was compelled to expand my capacity to impact health outcomes of diverse populations. Driven by this experience, I returned to the U.S. and applied to the Tufts Health Communication program.

Why did you choose Tufts?
I chose Tufts because I was impressed by the caliber of faculty and students when I visited the campus. The graduate students in the Tufts program bring valuable experience and perspectives from their jobs because they often do not come directly from undergraduate education. As someone who had been out of school for five years, this aspect of the program appealed to me. Additionally, I liked the idea of having classes with MPH students, MS Nutrition students and faculty from a medical campus, because this provided well-rounded perspectives, specifically valuable for a Health Communication degree.

Did you move to Boston to attend Tufts?
Yes, I moved from Colorado to attend Tufts. After returning to the U.S. from Chile, I lived in Colorado where I researched and applied to the Tufts graduate program.

How feasible was your approach to the program?
As a full-time student at Tufts, I worked part-time during my first year at the USDA Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging for the Boston Puerto Rican Center on Population Health and Health Disparities. During my second year in the program as a full-time student, I was a part-time paid intern at Health Dialog, a disease management company based in Boston. I transitioned to a full-time employee while still completing my degree and remained in this position after graduation. Although maintaining a healthy work-life balance was challenging, I benefited from applying what I learned in school to my professional experience and vice versa throughout my time at Tufts. If I were to do it again, I would not change this approach.

What type of position did you take after graduation?
After graduation, I continued working as an Outreach Communications Coordinator at Health Dialog. I shared responsibility for designing strategic interventions and targeted materials for a multi-channel government pilot for diabetic French citizens. Furthermore, I co-developed the content and design of health-related print materials tailored for multicultural groups. In addition, I moderated focus groups with varied age, race, gender and income audiences to test our targeted health materials.

How do you think your Tufts degree prepared you for working in the field?
Course assignments were interactive and provided practical experience with applying necessary skills in the field. In my courses, I developed proficiencies in the application of health behavior theory, health communication techniques and materials development, qualitative research methods, and strategic development of targeted interventions through the numerous projects designing health behavior change and communication interventions.

Furthermore, the culminating thesis project, known as the Applied Learning Experience (ALE), allowed me to further apply my classroom learning in a professional setting. I was a member of a Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center community-based participatory research grant aimed at reducing health disparities through the promotion of cancer-screening practices among low-income Latino populations. I utilized my knowledge of qualitative methods, health behavior theory, and effective health communication material design to develop culturally-relevant, actionable recommendations for a cancer prevention resource guide. These recommendations are currently being implemented in the community through this continued research effort.

Is there any additional information that you would like to share with prospective students?
I would encourage prospective students to follow their passion, but also be open to various possibilities at this stage. I came into the program wanting to pursue work in Type II diabetes prevention, but through my academic and professional experiences, I am now focused on cancer prevention, treatment adherence, and coping practices. While at Tufts it is important to take the time to conduct informational interviews and attend professional seminars/career talks to further one's understanding of potential career opportunities and to hone in on one's interests!

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