The culminating experiences of the Master of Public Health degree at the Colorado School of Public Health are the practicum and capstone. These two opportunities combine the academic concepts learned in the classroom with real-world experiences to solve public health issues. Through the practicum and capstone, students network with potential employers, develop a critical skill set…and sometimes land a job.
Laurie Musgrave is a second-year Masters of Public Health student in the Physical Activity and Healthy Lifestyles concentration. When Laurie first began to explore her options for her practicum, she only had two goals: one, travel abroad and two, work with a group doing real good. She found an opportunity in , shadowing a public health nurse and interning with Global Health Innovations. Global Health Innovations is a non-profit organization working in Malawi, Kenya, and Tanzania designing, implementing, and managing HIV/AIDS programs and health technology to create life-saving health care systems. Laurie worked specifically in programming that dealt with HIV/AIDs treatment, and she taught classes about HIV/AIDS prevention and basic hygiene. “My practicum experience in Malawi was unique, diverse, and great exposure to impactful public health work taking place globally. Challenging myself to be part of an experience outside of my comfort zone broadened my horizons and helped me land a fulfilling job post-graduation that is using my MPH.”
Once home from Malawi, Laurie worked with Dr. Leslie Cunningham-Sabo and the Nutrition Department at Colorado State University for her capstone. She created a school wellness index to support SPARK active recess and Fuel for Fun healthy eating, both popular public health programs within elementary schools.
With two very disparate experiences under her belt, Laurie was able to compare them to determine how to focus her career search. Deciding that her time in Malawi was more aligned with her future aspirations, Laurie began to tailor her coursework to global health concepts. She also completed a certificate program in Global Health Practice from Unite for Sight.
In the Spring 2015 semester Laurie was officially hired by Global Health Innovations as the Tanzania HITSystem Director. She is responsible for the monitoring, accountability, and support of the HITSystem. HITSystem is an online platform that facilitates improved communication between health clinics, laboratories, community health workers and mothers to help Early Infant Diagnosis of HIV. Most of this work will be done remotely via email and weekly phone calls, although Laurie will travel to visit HITSystem clinics at least once per year. For example, in February, she visited Tanzania to facilitate a 2-day training, bringing ten clinics online for the HITSystem.
Set to graduate in just a few weeks, Laurie reflects on her time with the ColoradoSPH. “My advice to a student like me, with diverse interests, is to separate your practicum and capstone experiences. Try to target two very different sectors of public health, try to develop two very different skill sets. When you juxtapose the two, you will be able to see which one is a better fit for your aspirations. And that is ultimately the goal of this program, isn’t it?”