Tune in to hear all that University of California Irvine program in public health has to offer and learn about the future UCI School of Population and Public Health. [Show Summary]
The Master in Public Health (MPH) degree experienced enormous growth since the COVID lockdown. One of the leading and largest programs in public health is offered by UC Irvine, and we are talking to the director of that program today, Dr. Bernadette Boden-Albala.
Interview with Dr. Bernadette Boden-Albala, Director of the UCI Program in Public Health and Founding Dean of the future UCI School of Population and Public Health. [Show Notes]
Welcome to the 517th episode of Admissions Straight Talk. Thanks for joining me. The challenge at the heart of graduate admissions is showing that you both fit in at your target schools and are a standout in the applicant pool. Accepted’s free download, Fitting In and Standing Out: The Paradox at the Heart of Admissions, will show you how to do both. Master this paradox, and you are well on your way to acceptance.
Our guest today is Dr. Bernadette Boden-Albala, director of the UCI Program in Public Health and founding Dean of the future UCI School of Population and Public Health. Dean Boden-Albala, prior to moving to UC Irvine in 2019, served as social epidemiologist at Columbia University and then as professor and senior Associate Dean at NYU. She earned her MPH and her doctorate in Public Health from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.
Dr. Boden-Albala, welcome to Admissions Straight Talk. [1:45]
Thank you so much. I’m really excited to be here.
Can you give us, just for starters, an overview of UCI’s MPH program focusing on its more distinctive elements? [1:52]
Sure. So first of all, our MPH degree program was established, oh, almost over a decade ago. 2010. It was accredited, which is critically important, by the Council on Education for Public Health, CEPH, in 2012. And it was really the first professional degree of the UCI public health program, and a big component, again, of this envisioned UCI School of Population and Public Health. And I should say that even before we had an MPH program, we have a very large, one of the largest and most diverse undergraduate programs in public health. And so even though the program started about 12 years ago, we have a wonderful public health faculty that has really been doing public health for a longer time than that. And really the aim of the program is to create public health practitioners who really work independently and collaboratively to develop and implement strategies that are really going to reduce the burden of disease and disability globally, locally and globally.
And I would say a real distinction is our focus on community and partnering with community. And I think we have some of the best, if not the best, community-based or community-engaged researchers. And Orange County, which is one of the largest counties in the country, is a very diverse county, and a lot of our faculty are working with all different populations in the county. And so that really is, I think, a huge distinctive feature. And when you’re working in partnership with communities, automatically your focus is going to be on health equity. And we were doing health equity long before a lot of people were even talking or thinking about health equity. And so that is the foundation – community engaged work, health equity – of what we do. And then you add on top of that incredible work in public health science. And our MPH students and our MPH used to be a small boutique program, 15, 20 students, and it’s now grown to over 100 students and growing.
And we’ve been adding faculty since I got here in 2019. Our faculty has tripled. And again, we’re bringing in all of these folks whose work really threads this health equity, community work, a lot of work on environmental health disparities. When a lot of other programs in the country about 15 years ago really sort of closed down or took environmental health programs and moved them into other areas, we built ours up and now we have this very strong environmental and occupational health department, and that also includes a center that’s state funded on occupational health. We also have a very strong epidemiology and biostats department with a big focus on cancer control and screening, especially in diverse communities. Our oldest department is population health disease prevention, and that really is focused on both global health and also biological determinants of health.
What would be a biological determinant of health? [5:28]
Oh, so really focused on things like biomarkers and understanding biomarkers.
Like the breast cancer gene, for example? [5:37]
Breast cancer gene. Genes for depression, things about biomarkers and stress, measuring cortisol through hair, and looking at population level stress which is coming from things like social determinants of health. And our last department is health society and behavior. And as you can imagine, they’re really thinking about all of the social determinants of health and then thinking about health policy and really how to move the evidence base forward.
I saw that there are four main paths through the MPH program. I realize that you have a very large undergraduate program, but Admissions Straight Talk is focused on graduates, so we’re going to focus on the MPH if that’s okay with you? [6:14]
Yes, yes, absolutely.
What are the four main paths through the MPH program? [6:29]
So epidemiology and biostatistics is a key path, and that’s really training. So for biostats, you’re thinking about the development and application of statistical reasoning and methods. And a big area in biostats now is that we actually have a very large program that’s focused on health informatics and really using large data sets like electronic health records data sets. We hear this term precision medicine, precision health, right? How to individualize health to that patient or to that individual. But I talk about precision public health, and it’s really understanding that populations are different, that they experience diseases differently, and to use these large data sets to help us understand what that would look like. And that’s, of course, then this area through which people can go, biostats or epidemiology, really understanding the etiology of disease. And one area within that is social epidemiology, which is what are the social influences that impact disease and the way in which populations experience that disease?
So that’s sort of one area. We talked a little bit before about environmental health, and this really provides students the opportunity to examine how the health of the population is affected by biological, chemical and physical factors in the environment. And there’s a lot of work now. We talk a lot about climate change and health. We were just talking, Linda, about the rain in California and about climate change. And we see this all over the country, all over the world, and our folks in environmental health are working on problems like, what happens if you are exposed to intense heat for weeks at a time, and what does that do to you? Does it make it vulnerable to other diseases, et cetera? How does that influence your health? And then the other thing with environmental health is, different populations are in very different environments. And so we talk about experiencing diseases differently.
These environments then may lead to a higher incidence of certain diseases in certain populations because of exactly where those populations live. And so, environmental health, clean air, clean water, all of those things, that’s another pathway. And then sociocultural diversity and health. And this has really become big and it’s so important. It’s the work that I’ve been doing for two decades is really understanding the social impact. And it’s not just about access. It’s about things like structural racism and how to identify structural racism. Structural racism in health, and how to identify those factors and how to make changes so that we have health equity so that everybody really gets the resources they need to be successful in optimal health and wellbeing.
Besides the MPH, which I said we were going to focus on, what are the other graduate degrees offered at UCI in public health? [9:51]
Yes. So we have a master’s of science in environmental health science. So that kind of work is around things like toxicology. So there’s a whole science around environmental health. And so, those students are really focused on that. That’s very lab based. And we also have a master’s of science in epidemiology, and we’re planning on hopefully increasing our masters of science programs as well down the road probably in the next year or two to include a masters of science, for example, in biostatistics where those folks would, now, if you get an MPH in biostatistics, which is a degree we give out, same kind of thing, but how to apply this kind of statistical reasoning to go out into a lot of industries, including, for example, the pharmaceutical industry.
And so, while we’ve got a real focus on community and populations and government as places where those with the MPH can then work after, there are also private industries that are really very excited and want to have students trained, again, in a master of science or a MPH. And then I know we’re not talking about the undergraduate at all, but we also have a number of doctoral degrees also.
We have a PhD in public health, which is in disease prevention, one of them. And the other is in global health. So there’s a PhD in public health with two emphasis areas. A PhD in epidemiology and also a PhD in environmental health sciences. And that’s focused on toxicology and exposure sciences is one area. And then, environmental epidemiology. And remember we talked a lot about thinking through environmental health disparities, how to identify that, how to think about, so one of our faculty just presented some great data around pregnancy and green space, and that’s what an environmental epidemiologist would do.
Is it important to have trees? Is it important to have flowers, right? Are there differences, grass or trees? And it turns out there might be some differences. So that’s what you do in environmental epidemiology. And so those are other things that we are offering. We also have a certificate now in health informatics. We are starting a center for bioethics, a really important area. So we’re just growing.
And I would say that I think the most important thing to take away is that there are many paths to optimizing health and wellness. You can go down a policy path or an epi path, or you could go and do sort of social cultural work or access work. And it doesn’t really matter which path. You need to take the path that you have the most passion about so that you can be most successful. And we’re always happy to talk to anybody who has questions about which path may work best for them.
Sounds like there’s really a lot of, not only opportunity, well, I guess the opportunity would be where they get jobs. But there are programs that are very quantitative, more programs that are very scientific, chemistry oriented. [9:51]
Probably more than some that are more community oriented within the field. Am I correct? [13:23]
That is absolutely correct. But I will tell you that the trading, and I actually teach the MPH graduate seminar series, which is a two-quarter course at the end of the first year, that all students with getting an MPH will really understand the critical importance of the evidence-based public health science and how to really translate that to community. And I think we did a poor job during COVID, and I think we all, as leaders in public health, have learned a lot about what not to do anymore. So we need to give students the confidence to be able to defend science, and then we need to be able to give them the experience and skills to translate that out so that they can work in any community partnering with those communities, and hopefully we move in the right direction towards, again, optimal health.
When do you anticipate that happening, and why is it the school of population and public health? That’s distinctive. [14:41]
That’s a great question. And distinctive is exactly what we want to be. So UCI has always been thinking about a school in public health, and we have a lot of schools at UCI, we’re a 50,000 plus campus.
Well, we’re integrated now. That’s really wonderful and UCI is topnotch on education. I left the privates to come out here to UCI because I felt I could no longer graduate students who were 150 plus thousand dollars in debt. And we’re really working, by the way, towards getting our masters in public health students out debt free.
And right now, they’re about $60,000 in debt. That’s the average. That’s less than what you see in most other schools of public health, but that’s way too much. Public health is a noble profession. But anyway, UCI has always backed and wanted to have a school of public health. Again, we’ve had a small program. I was hired about, well, four years ago in 2019 to make that transition. During that time, we grew from one department to four departments.
As I mentioned, we tripled our faculty. We’re growing our students especially, really focused on our professional MPH program, which is exactly what the world and the nation needs, right? Workforce needs of over 250,000 people in public health are needed across this country. And so we are on the way. We are very much on the way. We’re in the University of California system, so there is a bureaucracy. And we had to write a proposal which was just great, because it really gave faculty the time to think about what they wanted and how we could do things differently than other schools of public health, and what we wanted to focus on, which I have elaborated on in the last couple of questions.
Community and communication and science and enhancing the evidence base and thinking about environmental health and cancer and cardiovascular disease. So we’ve got the proposal, and it went all the way up through the system as a pre-proposal. And now it’s going back in as a full proposal. And we’re really hoping over the next few months to get a sign off on that. And that’s really important for students. I remember, I was at Columbia, as you had mentioned, and I think I started at Columbia when we were also a program and not a school. And we transitioned to being one of the great schools of public health, Columbia University Mailman School, across the country. And it’s just so great for students. Again, we’re an accredited program already.
And so, to be a school, we would then go through accreditation for a school. And that doesn’t diminish the accreditation for a program, but just enhances and really looks at the whole soup to nuts, the undergraduate, the PhD, and of course, really highlights the MPH as the professional degree in public health. And so, I think it would mean that we would have enhanced opportunities. There are some large grants out there that are only given to schools. For example, we would be this great program in this very large county really working in partnership with our community stakeholders and our government partners to really lead public health and to be that model. And so, I think it is just going to be a wonderful thing for students. Our students are thrilled to be in a program, but I think moving to the next step would just be fantastic for everyone.
When do you think, assuming that you get approval and things go forward, when do you think it would be a school as opposed to a program? And for students in the program, what do you think? What are the advantages? Is it enhanced internship opportunities, enhanced research opportunities, just more prestige to the degree? [18:46]
I think there’s more prestige to the degree. I think there are definitely enhanced research opportunities. I think for our MPH students, we’ve really worked very, very hard in the last four years to really get a handle on what these practicum opportunities look like, and then how to take those practicums and move them into jobs. COVID, I think, in some ways helped that. One of the things that we did in the last couple of years is that we hired to be director of our MPH program, we hired a seasoned public health practitioner, David Soleis, who had worked both at the county for quite a while, actually into the beginning of COVID, and he was also at the California State Department of Health office for a number of years as well. And so, getting practitioners in leadership roles in these sorts of programs or schools is important.
I think it is the prestige. Also, we’re moving up in the rankings. When I got here, we were ranked at 41. We’ve moved 10 points in a very few years up to 31. We’re now number 19 comparing all across all schools and programs. And that’s private. 19 in the, sorry, 19 in the publics and 31 across. And I think that it’s harder to move into the top 20 or top 10 as a program. That’s when you really need to be a school.
And you ask then, why population in public health and why not? So it’s interesting. What we do is public health, we’re trained in public health, we’ll always be trained in public health, but the world has really looked at public health, in some ways very negatively, very punitive.: The quarantine people. And so, one of the things we wanted to do was be really inclusive of everyone and really trying to change how people thought about public health by thinking about population.
We’re really about the population, the community. And so, we ended up with this name, whatever our naming gift will be, hopefully, but a school of population and public health. And so, hoping to really get people to be positive about public health as a field and adding population.
Let’s turn to the application and the application process for the MPH. What are you looking for in terms of academics from applicants? And I’d like you to break down the academics into coursework, grades, and I noticed the GRE is waived. So if there’s anything else relevant, but those two, those three. [21:43]
Academics first, and then we’ll talk about other things.
Yeah. So that’s great. So we are really looking for academically rigorous students. We are a top program in public health, so we are really looking for students with at least really a 3.0 or better and really more towards 4.0. We’d like to see that they have excelled in the sciences, because public health is a science. But we also would like to see that they’ve explored other areas, whether it’s social science or anthropology or philosophy. Because public health is not just science, but it’s really then the translation of science into things that we can do to optimize health in communities. And so, a broad liberal arts education would be wonderful. Those students tend to be well-read and can write, which communication is really important. And with some biology and some math skills, there’s a lot of data in public health. And so, maybe you’re not going to run the statistics for a program, but you certainly need to be able to interpret. And not just interpret, but translate that then out to lay populations.
And so that’s what we’re really looking for. And the other thing, though, I want to say, is don’t be discouraged. If you started out as a freshman and didn’t do so well in college, but then realized, I really am determined. I’m going to go and your GPA increases and your grades look better, that’s okay. So don’t be discouraged because we want people who’ve had real life experiences. And not all the time is everything easy.
And so we’ve waived the GREs for the MPH. Now, most schools of public health have now waived the GREs. And there’s concern that the GREs are actually biased against populations that have limited access to things like tutoring or to any kind of practice related organized activities, that they’re biased towards people who have had a lot of AP advanced placement in high schools. And everybody’s coming from a different type of educational experience. So we’ve done away with our GREs for the MPH students. But if you’re going to do epidemiology or biostats, we’re going to expect that you’ve taken some calculus or some statistics in college and that you’ve done well.
Let’s say you have an applicant whose grades aren’t fantastic, and maybe even the trend isn’t that great, or maybe there’s just an upward trend at the very end. Would you look at a GRE score? Would that be beneficial for that applicant? Are you not even looking at them? [24:58]
We’re really not looking at GRE scores. Students are always encouraged to provide supplemental materials, right? And so you’re talking about a student that is a good test taker, but for whatever reason, worked three jobs and had other things going on. And just so you know, we have moved towards holistic admissions, right? And so that’s really taking the student as a whole and evaluating them that way. I mean, I was somebody who did work two jobs and probably could have done a little bit better at that time on my GREs or whatever, or the math class. But I didn’t have time. I was running around. And I think a lot of our students running around working, running around providing income for whatever, for family. A lot of our students have that. A lot of our students have really had very tough lives. And so, the holistic approach allows us to do that.
And so let me just tell you that it used to be a decade ago that the first thing, I’ve reviewed a lot of applicants in a lot of institutions, and it used to be that the first thing we would do is just cut off by GPA. So anybody under a GPA, you’re out. And then same thing with scores. And so then you’re left with this very limited amount of people, most of whom had lived more privileged lives. And now we have, and it’s not just us, but education has really moved, higher ed, thank goodness, to a place where it says, I want to evaluate the individual as a whole. And that is absolutely what we want to do and are trying to do. And so that means that if you have had some difficulty.
Could have been illness, it could have been financial, it could have been family, mental health, whatever. [27:09]
Exactly. Do not hesitate to tell us, to explain. Do not hesitate to provide some insight because that’s what we need, right? How else can we know you as an applicant if you haven’t done that? And then take advantage, if you can, of opportunities for research or volunteering or working in a nursing home, right? And then really, I think it’s so important, the most important thing to focus on for an application is your personal statement, right? Because that is really how, it’s the only way that we get to know you. And really, I would say be very thoughtful about that and try to bring it in and integrate in what your vision of public health and how you want to be part of public health. And that’s the way that you’ll get into a great school like UCI.
That’s great advice. Thank you. Now, you touched on volunteering maybe in a nursing home, wherever. Experientially, what do you recommend applicants have in their background when they apply? [28:12]
I think that working in communities or working around health is probably really important, and that’s very broad. So I talked about a nursing home. When I was in high school, I did whatever it was, big brother, big sister, right? Just a sense of perspective about society. And you get that perspective when you do those kinds of volunteer activities. And so, that to me, whatever it is, or even showing innovation and initiative by starting a new club. We have great students even in our undergrad who do a lot of work. They’re sort of justice advocates, right, around justice. And so those are the kind of things that build character, and that’s what we really want in public health. So those kind of activities are great.
UCI requires the SOPHAS application, which is for masters in public health, as well as a personal history statement and a statement of purpose. Now, you kind of touched on that a minute ago when you talked about your vision for public health, but what are you hoping to glean from those documents that you don’t get from the rest of the SOPHAS? And how do you view them as being different? [29:24]
The two different statements you mean?
Personal history statement. I mean, I think I know what the difference is, but I’d like you to tell the listeners, what is the difference between the personal history statement and the statement of purpose? What are you hoping to get from it? [29:52]
Yeah, so the statement of purpose, I think, really reflects a sense of maturity in thinking about what public health is. And people probably, students probably don’t know this, but 20 years ago, you didn’t even get into an MPH program unless you had at least two to five years of experience in public health. And so, people would have to put those experiences together. And so statements of purpose, so we’re not asking for that now, but we’re asking for the same kind of level of maturity about what you think public health is and how you think you can work through public health. What do you want to do? To say something like, I really just want to help the world. I think that’s wonderful. So tell me how and why, and the statement of purpose is, how are you going to think about helping the world?
What are you going to do? Well, I want to be an epidemiologist because I really like numbers and I want to understand the social impact of diseases. So in COVID, we saw these huge disparities by race, ethnicity, and so I think that might be a result of structural racism. And so what I want to use my epi degree for is blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And so you really, you’ve thought about it, and that’s what we want. We want students who are thinking about it, not just watching CIS or whatever television show.
The joke that everybody knows is, halfway through COVID, I got a call from my mother and she said, now I finally know what you do.What do you mean? I’ve been doing this for 25 years. And she said, yeah, but I just never knew. I said, I’m an epidemiologist. But COVID helped define what people in public health did, and that everybody does different things.
And so when you apply, it’s a serious degree. It’s a noble degree. It’s as noble as medicine or nursing or pharmacy or dentistry, social work. It’s a noble degree, and you need to think it through and think about how you are going to contribute. And so, that’s a statement of purpose, if you will. And your background, again, is how I got to where I am and what happened along the way, and to get to know me as a person. So they’re really very different. And we have a really fine group of faculty who review all of this and are really thinking again about this holistic approach.
We want to understand if students are diverse, because diversity is an asset. We want to make sure that we admit students that are all different, varied backgrounds and experiences, because students come together and they’re a cohort and they influence each other and each other’s thinking. So we don’t want everyone to be the same because we know that diversity is really the key to helping solve all of these problems. We love students who have gone out into the fields, whether it’s here in the US, whether it’s globally.
We want to know about those experiences and what they thought about those experiences. And we love students who, maybe they have another degree. Maybe they already have a RN, for example. And they’ve been very focused on treating individual patients. Public health is about the community, and maybe they’re thinking, I enjoy treating my patients, but I really want to think about community health, and I want to think about what that looks like. And so, again, diversity, but I will also say, engineering students, we need you in public health, computer students, we need you in public health because you bring skills and a different perspective. And that’s, again, how we’re going to solve some of these major problems.
Question about the statement of purpose. A lot of times, statements of purpose will also say, I’m applying to program X. I want to long-term solve whatever problem they want to solve, but I’m going to use X, Y, A, B, C resources in the program to prepare me to address those problems. Do you want to also know a little bit about why UCI, what path they’re going to take, or that’s not so important to you? [34:02]
It’s very important for our PhD students. I think it’s nice to have that for the MPH, but the MPH is a professional degree. It’s a little bit different, but it would be nice to know that, for example, they say, I want to do community engaged research. And Dr. LeBron, Tanja Siri, Roe and Mori are the top community participatory researchers in the country, and I want to do my MPH with them. That’s wonderful. That really, again, that shows that they’re mature in their thinking about this.
And I would just add passion is so important, and that comes through by when you look at excitement. So to try to have some passion in these statements is great.
What is a common mistake that you see applicants make in their applications? [35:24]
Missing application deadlines.
And also, another common, I think, sort of statement of purpose or background is people have had events that have changed their lives, and they want to tell you about those events. But what happens is they’ll tell you about the event, and then they’ll think that you as the reader can just get from that event to being an applicant in public health. If you’re going to tell us that you’re inspired to do public health because your grandmother had cancer.
Why don’t you become an oncologist? [36:11]
Right? Well, right. Then work through the logic, right? I’ve seen the most incredible statements that start with my grandmother had cancer, and flow through, and it’s because of this, this and this, that I realized that I wanted to do this, and I wanted to work with communities around cancer and cancer survivorship. And then I saw that my grandmother had cancer and I want to go into public health. And the mistake there is I have no idea what’s in between there and in the thinking and how am I supposed to get to know you? So it’s good to have the pivotal moments, but you have to make the connections.
You’re not, in other words, you said this a couple of times in different ways, but you’re not a good mind reader. [36:56]
No. Nobody is.
No. And we get hundreds of applications, right? So we are selective, and so I need to know why. Tell me why.
Is an interview part of the application process? [27:18]
It’s not part of the MPH process. I think that there have been cycles when everybody gets interviewed over the decades, and then not. Should it be? I think probably, but I also think it’s very hard. How do you get students in, is it different in Zoom than in person, et cetera. So right now it’s not, although we do want to meet our students when they get accepted. And if you’ve been accepted to UCI, congratulations. We’re hoping to see you at admitted students day next week.
What makes an applicant jump off the page to you in a positive way? [37:58]
Again, I think diversity, maturity, perspective, those are the key things. And of course, excellence. Excellence in everything that they’ve done or tried, or applicants who have the maturity to say, I had to work two jobs. And so, this is how I structured my educational experience so I could do those two things. So maybe it took five years instead of four, right? So I think maturity, passion, and also really important is knowing what public health is. And that’s something that, if you don’t know what public health is, you should come in and you should talk to our faculty, and you should get a sense. That’s where exploring schools becomes so important. But if you don’t know what public health is, jumping into a MPH professional degree, it’s going to be tough, because your expectations and our expectations may not be the same. And so, that’s an unsuccessful educational experience.
How do you view letters of intent or update letters at any time during the process or correspondence from waitlisted applicants? [39:13]
I think they’re great. I’m wondering what my whole admissions committee would say about that, but I think there are no, I think it’s very, very important. Things happen, which can change in a really positive way for students, and they need to let us know, because I think that’s critically important. I’m going to get in trouble, I’m sure, after this, but I think that that’s important. So actually, our graduate student affairs team is really interested in that. And we’ll make sure that that gets incorporated in big things, right?
Right. I mean, you might want to do a summary of things that have happened, including one big thing and a few small things. That’s fine. It’s better not to get something every week, but maybe wait. But again, you’ve got this tight deadline, right? Applications are due usually in the middle of December, right, and then we’re going to start looking in the beginning of January. So you want to get stuff in when it happens, especially if it’s a big thing.
Now, you have a MPH. [40:30]
You’ve been in the field as a professor and administrator for roughly two decades. What would you tell yourself if you were applying in 2023 or 2024 for a MPH? [40:32]
Yeah, that is a great question. What would I tell myself?
What would you advise yourself? What didn’t you realize? What would you advise yourself? [40:48]
Yeah, I would advise myself to really take advantage of the faculty that are around during the MPH if you’re in the program, right? That’s what you’re talking about, in the program?
No, I’m talking about as an applicant. [41:10]
Oh, as an applicant.
As an applicant. I think it’s great advice, by the way, when you’re in the program. You just said it. [41:13]
You asked a question, which I think was a great question, before, which was about, do you describe the people you might want to work with? And so I do think you should decide, so not all MPH programs are the same. So that’s the first thing, okay? And while we have this wonderful US news and World Report rankings, it’s controversy on that, obviously. But while we do have that, you have to decide, you have to say, I want an MPH. Why? What do I want to do with it? And so you need to make sure that you get, it’s not dissimilar to undergraduate, that you find programs that are going to have the things that interest you. So for example, global health, right? If you’re interested in global health, you want to go to a program that has global health experiences. You want to go to a program where a lot of faculty do global health, right?
Again, the same thing with community engagement. If you’re really set on doing cancer, look to see how many people are doing cancer. Also, I think I would look to see, what are the experiences of partnerships or collaborations across different schools? Who’s working with who, and maybe how do you do that? How do you find that out? So one thing you do is you can find the faculty that you might be interested in because of the area. Look them up, look at their papers. Are they collaborating with other people around the university? Because I think that those collaborations can lead to really positive things and can also be networks for you if you’re set on an area. And I would, of course, before I applied, ask, should I wait or should I move forward? How strong is my application? Would my application be stronger if I spent the next eight to nine months volunteering at an organization or whatever it is?
So I think making, really, really getting my application as strong as possible, talking to people in the field and identifying, say, the five schools around the country or around the state, whatever, five schools and programs that really are the best match for you. So say I don’t want to stay on campus. I’m taking care of my grandmother, and I want to live at home. You don’t want to have a five hour commute every day. So it depends upon what, and then thinking about people like me on the campus. How many people have lived in communities like the ones I’ve lived in that have gone to the school and that have been successful? And what does the student body look like? And how am I going to feel that I fit in? Do most of the students work? Do most of the students not work? Right? Is it a commuter school? So all of those things, plus then, what’s the science and where do I fit into the science?
What would you have liked me to ask you? [44:27]
On this one, I think I’m very happy that you asked about the application. I think that’s important. One thing I always ask students when I see them is, what do you see yourself doing in 10 years, right? Because that eliminates all of the work of the MPH and the PhD if you’re going to go on that way. And I think that gives me a good sense of where they, both their maturity level, but what are they most attracted to? And so say you really want to go into the CDC and be an epidemic intelligence officer, right? So you might want to look at an Emory and you might also want to look at other schools that have sent students to go to the CDC, for example. So I think that that’s really important is envisioning yourself 10 years from now, thinking about where you want to be, and then thinking about if that program or school is going to get you there.
That’s great advice. Thank you so much. Dr. Boden-Albala, I think we’re almost out of time. You’ve been really generous with your time, and I want to thank you for joining me and sharing your expertise. This has been absolutely delightful. Where can listeners learn more about UCI’s MPH program? [45:30]
- UCI Program in Public Health
- Graduate Admissions – UCI Program in Public Health
- An MPH/Postbac Grad’s Journey Through Med School
- Master of Public Health (MPH) SOPHAS Packages
- An MPH/Postbac Grad’s Journey Through Med School
- Interview With a DO/MpH Pursuing his Passion
- Casper, A Situational Judgment Test: All You Need to Know [Episode 513]
- MD/PA/NP/DO/DDS/MPH: What Do They Require? [Episode 499]
- Harvard MD/MPH Student and Premed Podcaster Mary Tate [Episode 257]