Sammi Gassel

Sammi Gassel, '15

Tell us about your job.
I work for a company that has several hospitals and health centers as clients. We write educational material for their websites about different health topics, focusing on writing everything in plain language. We also work to help patients feel more comfortable about medical conditions they have, by writing with empathy, honesty, and integrity.

What did you study as an undergraduate?
I received my BA in Theatre Education (with a minor in psychology) at Emerson College. I loved Emerson so it was great to do the Tufts program and be able to sort of go back to Emerson.

How did you decide to get a degree in Health Communication?
While I initially thought that I would be a theatre teacher, I have also always had an interest in health. As a student, I did a lot of volunteer work with the Epilepsy Foundation, educating the public about epilepsy and aiming to reduce stigma. I took a health communication intro course at Emerson, and I also worked at the Center for Health and Wellness as an alcohol safety peer educator. So when I discovered that I didn’t want to be a theatre teacher anymore, health communication seemed like the obvious route. I’m glad I tried out the theatre career, but now that I am working in health, I know that health communication is the right place for me.

How did you learn about the Tufts program, and what made you choose it?
I actually was originally looking at the Emerson program since I had gone there for undergrad. When I saw that they did a program with Tufts, I decided to check out the Tufts side. Although I loved the idea of being a lion again, I realized that I really wanted to try a new school. When I visited Tufts, I fell in love with it immediately. I loved that it was part of the medical school because that opened up so many resources. The professors and students I met were so friendly, and I could see how incredibly passionate they were. The next day I toured a program at another school and I left that one early, went back to my hotel, and enrolled in the Tufts program right there. I just couldn’t see myself anywhere else.

Did you work as a grad student, and how feasible was your approach to the program?
I worked on the Public Health Rounds newsletter at Tufts, which was great because it had a very flexible schedule. My second year, I also worked remotely for a company that I had interned with over the summer in Chicago. Since I was working from Boston, I was able to make my own schedule, which was really nice.

I think it’s definitely possible to work as a grad student, but you have to know what’s best for you. I knew that I would not be able to handle strict office hours on top of course work, so I didn’t even try to tackle that. But I know plenty of people who did and were absolutely fine. I would recommend that before you look for a job, have a very clear idea of what you’re looking for, and compromise but don’t settle. Take advantage of your time at grad school, and don’t waste it by driving yourself nuts with a work schedule you can’t handle.

Tell us about your ALE - where did you do it, and what are some of the most valuable skills that you gained?
I wrote recommendations and created mock-ups for a transition guide for college students with epilepsy through the Epilepsy Foundation of America. Its office is in D.C., so I didn’t get the office experience, but I had worked in its Chicago office before and took a trip to its D.C. office during the ALE, so I did get an idea of what it was like.

One of the most valuable skills I gained was not just surveying my target population, but really getting to know them. I had planned on only doing one survey but the answers to it were so fascinating that I did a second one to discover more. Everyone does market research, but you learn so much and it’s so much more meaningful when you treat your target audience as a group of unique individuals.

Click here to learn more about Sammi's ALE

If different than your current position, what was your first job after graduation?
I worked as a Communications and Search Engine Optimization Specialist at the SEO firm in Chicago I had worked remotely for during grad school. I didn’t stay long because there really wasn’t a health focus there, but I’m very happy that I did it for a few months. SEO experience is great to have, and it’s something that has to be applied when writing health information for websites.

What are some ways in which your Tufts degree has equipped you to work in the field?
Tufts taught me to have a comprehensive approach to my work. Before I got my degree, I would get so excited about ideas and just run with them, not paying attention to every part of it until I hit a roadblock. I now know the importance of planning things fully, of taking into account every facet of a project. I feel like my work now is more complete, better researched, and more credible.

Do you have any advice for current students, or prospective students considering the Tufts MS in Health Communication program?
Take advantage of the fact that the Tufts program is part of the medical school. I got to be friends with a lot of the MD students and they definitely gave me a different perspective. I got to know them by living in the dorm and by joining the med school a cappella group “Docappella,” but just look around. There are plenty of ways to get to know other people on campus besides the public health students.

Also, don’t be afraid to talk to faculty, even if you’re not their student. The Tufts faculty is incredible. They love talking about their work and are not just willing, but excited to help students with their projects and studies.

Learn more about our alumni