My first public health class was human sexuality. The class itself was a big question mark for me (would it be a breeze, a la high school health class?), but I was intrigued and chose it. Many of my classmates were ready to dish on positions, foreplay and other salacious topics. Instead, what we got was an in-depth review of human anatomy, reproductive health and STDs. The exams were tough and the class average was a low C ― a bit of a blow to the ego when you’re barely passing your G.E. sexuality class.
The most terrifying part of the class was the professor, who would casually saunter down the aisle, suddenly spin around and ask a student a point blank question about the day’s material. The student got ten seconds to respond; if they did, they earned participation points. If they didn’t or if they asked to rephrase or repeat the question, their points were lost for the day. Despite this looming fear, the class truly sparked my initial, and now lasting, interest in public health.
I was especially inspired by one guest lecturer from the local Planned Parenthood chapter. The health educator was entertaining, energetic and informative. I learned about every type of contraceptive method within a 45-minute lecture and can still (7 years later) recite them. Moments like these confirmed for me that public health was the right choice. The doors to more public health courses felt open to me in a new way.
I took a class on environmental health and learned about hazardous waste, communicable diseases and foodborne illnesses. I took a class exploring occupational and industrial safety, with topics like ergonomics, workers’ comp, fire hazards and workplace falls.
A class entitled “Introduction to Health and Disease,” taught us about diseases in every system of the body. Week by week we learned about cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, urinary, musculoskeletal, integumentary, endocrine and many other disease types. The project for this class consisted of students playing the role of a sick patient with a variety of symptoms. In front of the class, we had to diagnose and provide treatment options for that patient (with no notes!). This type of hands-on learning made me a better student and prepared me for graduate-level health education.
Another favorite course was medical sociology, where I learned about medical ethics and the impact social and cultural factors have on health care in the U.S.
Because I chose the Health Administration concentration for my degree, I got the opportunity to take classes in management, marketing, accounting and computer science, pushing my education well beyond the purview of public health courses. I found I had a particular passion for marketing. The class work introduced me to a new mode of creativity and gave me a greater understanding of consumer science, which turns out is fascinating, especially in the ways it overlaps with public health efforts. For instance, one of my marketing instructors worked as a marketing director for a large medical organization and was able to demonstrate how the two disciplines interlaced in the lucrative medical marketing sector.
With senior year closing in, I had two options: continue my education or enter the workforce. A combination of cultural expectations, the lackluster job market and an appetite for education lead me to apply for my school’s MPH program. Three years later I’m finishing up this part-time program while working as an educator for child maltreatment prevention. It’s been a wonderful whirlwind.
Thank you for joining me on this journey to revisit my undergrads. This trip down memory lane really makes me look back and appreciate the professors and courses that inspired my current path.