Tell us about your current job.
I am currently working as an International Health Communication Specialist at the Environment and Health Group, Inc., a start-up company working to strengthen the development of gerontechnology, using the latest technology to translate scientific knowledge into innovative e-health tools for elderly populations and their health care providers. My current project involves e-interventions for Chinese Alzheimer's caregivers and is funded by an NIH grant. I have been helping to create a website for the Chinese-speaking population on Alzheimer's disease.
What did you study as an undergraduate?
I studied Nursing at the School of Nursing at Peking University in China and applied to Tufts shortly after graduating.
How did you decide to get a degree in Health Communication?
I spent more than 10 months working in a hospital setting and realized that the clinical arena was not for me. It was very stressful watching people's health conditions worsen. I realized that if you can change people's behaviors beforehand, you can prevent some serious conditions. I also saw doctors throw out big words and many patients do not know medical terms. I decided to focus on communicating health messages with all people, especially those who are less educated. There is a big gap between medical professionals and patients, their caregivers, and the public. I wanted to work to bridge that gap.
Why did you choose Tufts?
I searched online and found very few schools with a health communication program. I used to think I was not an "academic" person - I wanted to learn very practical skills and the Tufts program seemed very practical. The Tufts program gives you the chance to practice in the real world through the Applied Learning Experience (ALE) and that meant a lot to me.
Did you move to Boston to attend Tufts?
Yes. I moved from Bejing, China to Boston in 2008 to attend Tufts - it was the first time I was in the US!
How feasible was your approach to the program?
I was a full-time student, but began working part-time shortly after starting school. While in the program I worked 15-20 hours a week as a research assistant, interned at Brookline Health Department, and started my current job in October 2009. I took four courses for the first two semesters, did one during winter and one during the summer and saved the ALE for the last semester. I completed the program in two years. Sometimes I felt overwhelmed, but I am the kind of person who needs to keep myself very busy and have my schedule full. There were some times when I was overly ambitious and tired, but now I appreciate all the experiences and opportunities I had during the program.
What type of position did you take after graduation?
My current job is in cross-cultural health communication at the Environment and Health Group, Inc.
How do you think your Tufts degree prepared you for working in the field?
I really, really like the Tufts program. I always say that I wished I could have taken all the courses it offered; all of them are very interesting and I want to learn more! The Tufts Health Communication program teaches you to use many different technologies to disseminate health messages and that is what I am working on now at my current job. The core principals of the program, like fully understanding your target audience and doing evaluation all the time have been very helpful. The ALE gave me the opportunity to work in the real world. Sometimes in the real world there are constraints, like time, and people change their minds. Sometimes it is also hard to communicate with people who don't know about health communication and how important it is. To have this real world experience before I graduated was very helpful in preparing me to deal with a variety of situations.
Is there any additional information that you would like to share with prospective students?
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Enjoy your study at Tufts and take the great opportunity of the ALE to do some challenging and real work before graduating!