Tawny Wilson, Massachusetts Department of Public Health

Tawny Wilson MPH graduate 2010

“Through surveillance activities, data collection and reporting, I define needs and support changes that create and sustain healthy environments where people live, work and play.”

Epidemiologist, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Bureau of Community Health and Prevention
MS-Nutrition/MPH combined degree program, 2010
MPH concentration, Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Tell us about your current job.
Epidemiologist, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Bureau of Community Health and Prevention. Through surveillance activities, data collection and reporting, I define need and support change that creates and sustains healthy environments where people live, work and play. My work is primarily focused in two populations: older adults and people with disabilities. My work spans to other areas including chronic disease, violence and injury prevention, and oral health. In my position I create burden documents, data reports, fact sheets using a variety of large data sources; prepare maps using ArcGIS to display the reach and need of our programs; support grant proposals; plan and lead coalition meetings; evaluate programs; present data; and respond to data requests.

What inspired you to pursue an MPH in your area of specialization?
I am passionate about health disparities, through epidemiological research the data provides the evidence of differential prevalence of health conditions and associated risk behaviors, that while they can be seen through observation, assigning a number to the problem adds gravity to problem of health inequity.

What drew you to the Tufts Program?
I was applying to only Nutrition programs and when I found the dual degree program with the Friedman School and the MPH program at Medical School I knew it was a perfect fit for my interests. I had been working at a county health department through the Illinois Public Health Association Americorps program prior to graduate school and I knew I wanted to continue working in public health. I also was drawn to the Boston area, the large number of hospitals, research centers and with MA being a champion in healthcare reform I knew I would find a wide array of opportunities for internships and jobs in my field.

How did your Tufts degree help prepare you to work in the field (or what were the highlights of your Program)?
Tufts prepared me for my career in a number of ways beyond the necessary statistical skills to carry out my job. At MDPH epidemiologists are not normally heavily involved in writing grant proposals, but my experience at Tufts allowed me to take on an instrumental role in preparing several recent grant proposals, which also included working with stakeholders, presenting critical information, creating detailed work plans, and constructing budgets. Although one of my favorite things about Tufts MPH program is that in many of my courses I was given the flexibly to focus my projects on topics I was interested in, for example in Ken Chui's Regression Methods course I used a data set for my final project that I continue to use in my current job.

What advice do you have for prospective students?
Come in with an open mind. I started the MPH program as a Health Communications concentration but as I met professors and took courses I became more acquainted with topical public health issues. I decided that with my strengths and skills I'd make the biggest impact working on the data side of things. I also recommend to ask professors and classmates about their interests-- I learned more from reading newspaper/journal articles and conversations with my peers than PowerPoint presentations.