The Master of Public Health program’s series titled “Where Are They Now?” dives into each individual’s time as a student and how those experiences shaped their current professions. If you are interested in taking part in the series, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Catch up with Summer Rose here!
Name: Summer Rose
Graduation Year: May 2018
Job Title: Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response (PHEPR) Planner
Organization: Spokane Regional Health District
Describe your career path. Why public health?
I always knew I would go into some sort of healthcare career. My mom was in healthcare and I spent a lot of time at her clinic. I didn’t go to college right after graduating high school. I worked in the restaurant industry and in corporate sales. When it was time to go back to school, I initially thought I would be a dental hygienist, but when I applied to school I was told I would probably make a better dentist than a dental hygienist. I am a bit more of a leader than a follower, so they probably had a point. Instead, I got my undergraduate degree in Exercise Science and graduated Magna Cum Laude. Then, I thought that I would love to go into hand therapy as an Occupational Therapist, so I got a job as a therapy technician. I began applying to the Occupational Therapy program, but despite my good grades, I didn’t get accepted. After that, I was pretty crestfallen. I went to Dr. Repovich, the director of the Exercise Science program at Eastern Washington University. We had a long talk about what I loved about healthcare, and she suggested I meet with Dr. Houghton, the director of the Master of Public Health program at the time, and the rest is history. I have such a passion for so many areas of public health. I feel like the field is the perfect outlet for someone like me – someone who is curious, enthusiastic, and opinionated. It is perfect for someone who cares about promoting health, protecting health, and building health equity.
What are you responsible for in your current position?
As a Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response (PHEPR) Planner, I work on updating and modifying the plans used to respond to threats to the public’s health. I work with partners in the community and with the Washington State Department of Health to plan and exercise the plans. Our plans are never “done” – we constantly review and adapt them to fill in gaps and meet any new requirements, then provide more support and resources to populations that may need them. I also am working on refining and retraining our Incident Management Team (IMT) program. It may not sound like it, but it is a lot of fun.
What is your favorite part about your job?
I love my team here, so they are really my favorite part, but I also love the work. I have always been the type of person who works through the worst-case scenario in my mind and figures out how to best deal with it. I never realized that that’s actually a job! My plans are generally about outbreaks, medical countermeasures, and training/exercises. I get to look at the things we have done in the past and the results that we got, which gives me a fantastic base to start with so I can compare that to things others have done and are currently doing. I get to talk with community partners about things we may need to work into our plans and look at changing requirements at the state and federal levels to make that all fit together like a puzzle. Then, that can be made into a plan or checklist or graphic that someone can pick up, review, and act upon. After that, we test it, find the gaps, and we do it all over again.
How did the MPH program prepare you for your current position?
I am constantly realizing how much my MPH degree helps me to understand the bigger picture. I have had jobs where I knew I was doing good work at the small thing I did. I find that instead of being good at this one little thing that I do, I have a better understanding of how every element works together. This allows me to do some more creative thinking about the kinds of resources we have and how to use them.
What was most memorable to you about your experiences in the MPH program?
I have had so many memorable experiences but the most memorable was probably getting my research through the Institutional Review Board (IRB) process when everyone was telling me that it wouldn’t get approved. I went to Dr. Tresidder to discuss my research project and she assured me that we would get my research through the IRB process. Although there were so many more voices saying I couldn’t do it, I believed her and my IRB was approved. It was without a doubt one of the most nerve-wracking days of my life. That accomplishment is one I worked really hard for, so I am very proud of it.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering pursuing an MPH?
Public health is not what people usually think of as being the rock star of healthcare. Most people think of heart surgeons or doctors curing kids of cancer. While that is completely amazing, and I am not comparing us to them at all, I think of the elderly folks who won’t have a fall this year, the single mother who won’t miss work this flu season because her family got vaccinated, or the addict who gets up and goes to work every morning because they’ve finally gotten some control over their addiction. Public health is up-stream thinking. It is holistic. It is preventative. I wish more of healthcare was proactive, instead of reactive. I think of the illnesses that are prevented, and I think of the ones that will happen and the plans that are in place to contain them. To me, that is a smart career. I think we are rock stars.