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Unique relationship between SPHIS and city’s public health department

The School of Public Health and Information Sciences and Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness (LMPHW) share a common location - with buildings on opposite sides of Gray Street, and a common goal of creating a healthier population.

A long-standing partnership between the two organizations undergirds the school’s mission to educate future public health leaders. Sarah Moyer, MD, MPH, is the director of LMPHW and holds a faculty appointment at the school. This unique arrangement allows students to learn from top-level officials who are shaping the profession and responding to trends. A similar arrangement is expected with the future leader of LMPHW’s Center for Health Equity, with instruction on health policy and opportunities for students to become involved in data sets and center projects.

“It is strategic for the health department and academia to be joined at the hip, because we can accomplish more together,” said Dean Craig Blakely.

A new senior capstone opportunity is the most recent accomplishment of the partnership. An inaugural cohort of five students rotate through LMPHW departments this semester, gaining experience in all aspects of public health and working on projects ranging from literature reviews to public health preparedness initiatives. School leaders will present this innovative model at the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health’s spring meeting.

As students learn vital skill sets in the classroom and on the field, more than a dozen SPHIS alumni have applied their education in careers at LMPHW, holding positions such as academic health coordinator, community health administrator, environmental health specialist, epidemiologist andhealth program analyst.

Blakely added, “The school is grateful to have nearby public health alumni who support current students by giving of their time as guest speakers, career panelists and practicum supervisors.”

Meet Our Alumni

We reached out to the SPHIS alumni working at the health department to learn about their current experiences and experience at SPHIS.

Billie Castle, PhD (2017), MPH, Academic Health Coordinator

  • Responsibilities: Coordinates student experiences, engages in research, practice, and service, and publishes products that highlight the contributions the health department is making to the field of public health and impact to the health and well-being of Louisville residents and visitors.
  • Experience at SPHIS: “My experience at SPHIS has prepared me to work with a variety of people, who have diverse backgrounds, experiences, and outcomes. It has prepared me to work alongside others to improve population health.”
Yu-Ting Chen, MPH

Yu-Ting Chen, MPH (2009), MS (2010), Epidemiologist

  • Responsibilities: Manage several databases (Louisville Metro Syringe Exchange Program Database, Vital Statistics, Hospitalization Claims, etc.), analyze and interpret data to perform epidemiologic studies, monitor program reports, lead the data analysis skillset lab team, and cooperate with external agencies on data issues and data sharing
  • Experience at SPHIS: “Not only I’ve learned fundamental public health knowledge and methods/theories to do my job right, but also had a chance to be connected with LMPHW as an intern when I was a SPHIS student. This helped me understand what is really going on in the field and what challenges they have. I think the relationship between SPHIS and LMPHW is very unique and valuable.”
Angela Graham, MPH

Angela Graham, MPH (2015), Community Health Administrator

  • Responsibilities: Leads a team of epidemiologists, data managers, and records specialists who focus on finding ways to elevate the work the health department does as it relates to data as well as analyzes data to help partners and colleagues understand challenges. Develops and operationalizes programs and policies. Collaborate with community partners to tackle larger issues, such as improving maternal-child health and promoting health equity across the city.
  • Experience at SPHIS: “We spent a lot of time working in small teams and talking about ways to address issues from different perspectives, and I think that collaborative learning environment helped set me up for Public Health 3.0. As a practitioner, I’m essentially doing the same thing on a bigger scale.”
Taylor Ingram, MPH

Taylor Ingram, MPH (2013), Health Program Analyst

  • Responsibilities: Project Manager and Consultant on short-term projects (2 years or less in length). Currently serves as the Deputy Logistics Coordinator for LMPHW’s Hepatitis A response team, co-leads a team focused on expanding LMPHW’s capacity around policy development, manages a legal epidemiology research team which analyzes policies that offer incentives to small food retailers to alleviate food deserts, manages a grant to implement routine opt-out screening for HIV and Hepatitis C, and also served as the project manager for the 2017 Smoke-Free Ordinance to restrict the use of electronic cigarettes and hookah in pubic indoor spaces where smoking was already prohibited.
  • Experience at SPHIS: “My time at SPHIS helped me establish a broad public health lens and a collaborative spirit. I learned that the practice of public health doesn’t have to happen in a silo or in a particular setting. Since graduating I have worked in the nonprofit, private, and now public sector; and I have never focused on the same issue twice. Earning my MPH provided me with a foundation of knowledge and skills that I can now apply in any setting or use to address any health concern.”

Tom Murro, MPH (2013), Environmental Health Specialist

  • Responsibilities: Performs food safety inspections at facilities which hold health permits (i.e. restaurants, daycares, hospitals, convenience stores). Site leader for various Hepatitis A mobile vaccination sites during the peak of the outbreak.
  • Experience at SPHIS: “Going through the MPH program helped prepare me for my current role by providing course work directly relevant to working in Public Health. The information you obtain during the first year will be utilized frequently in any public health profession you choose to work in, having had experience in health behavior or epidemiology for example does not directly apply to my everyday field work, but I use the information I gained from those courses frequently.”
Haritha Pallum, MPH

Haritha Pallam, MPH (2010), MS, Epidemiologist

  • Responsibilities: Data analysis, LMPHW program evaluation, Healthy Babies Louisville (HBL) collective impact evaluation, GIS mapping, quality assurance function for Healthy Louisville Dashboard.
  • Experience at SPHIS: “SPHIS faculty/staff support and guidance played a key role in the completion of my practicum internship, and my immediate recruitment into the current position at LMPHW.”
Mary Powell, MPH

Mary Powell, MPH (2011), Epidemiologist

  • Responsibilities: Works in the Communicable Disease office, investigates illnesses, submits questionnaires, data entry/analysis, and is involved with the Hepatitis A outbreak.
  • Experience at SPHIS: “I learned to see situations from multiple perspectives. Working with students from other backgrounds can be challenging but ultimately you all learn from each other and can use these skills in the work force.”
Matt Rhodes, MPH

Matt Rhodes, MPH (2015), Director of Health Operations

  • Responsibilities: Provides leadership and oversight for environmental health, public health preparedness, health services (WIC and Healthy Start), laboratory services, clinical services (TB, STD, and Methadone), as well as the communicable reportable disease(s) and syringe exchange programs.
  • Experience at SPHIS: “The experience through SPHIS was very much an applied experience for me personally and allowed me to blend years of practical experience with the academic teachings. Understanding the science of epidemiology and biostatistics better and grasping the context for public health law, along with increased knowledge of healthcare management and a better understanding of theories and models impacting health behaviors, helped make me a more well-rounded public health practitioner.”
Terrel Young, MPH

Terrel Young, MPH (2018), Health Program Analyst and Outreach Specialist

  • Responsibilities: Develops partnerships and strategies with community agencies and serves as liaison to the department, completes special projects, and prepares reports, evaluates programs, and measures program outcomes, monitors, tracks, documents and evaluates public health prevention and wellness programs, activities, and operations, and compiles data for report development.
  • Experience at SPHIS: “Honestly, I thought that my experience at SPHIS was just going to be busy work in order to obtain my degree. However, of the two years that I was there, I found out who I really wanted to be within this healthcare field. This experience shaped me into a mature individual, and I learned many life lessons from my instructors and going through my own personal journey. Many of the assignments from the courses or practicum I use in my everyday work. The objectives that SPHIS promotes are applicable to healthcare in all areas. The experience is a depiction of the real world in healthcare.”
Ciara Warren, MPH

Ciara Warren, MPH (2014), Environmental Health Specialist

  • Responsibilities: Works in the Public Facilities department, which inspects swimming pools, hotels, tattoo/body piercing studios, micro-blading, mobile home parks, schools, youth camps and shelters, is involved in rabies control activities, responds to complaints, and is part of the hazmat response team.
  • Experience at SPHIS: “The experience through SPHIS allowed me to blend years of practical experience with the academic teachings. Therefore, it was very much an applied experience for me personally. Better understanding the science of epidemiology and biostatistics and grasping the context for public health law, along with increased knowledge of healthcare management and better understanding of theories and models impacting health behaviors served to make me a more well-rounded public health practitioner.”

Acknowledgements

We strived to include all SPHIS alumni who currently work for LMPHW in this article. In addition to those listed above, we also want to recognize the following alumni: Sandra Melendez, MPH (2017), Community Health Nurse Specialist; Libin Korah, MPH (2010), Environmental Health Specialist; and Ryan Irvine, MPH (2018), recently retired and former Assistant Director.

If you are a SPHIS alumni and would like to share your story, please notify Paige Wills, paige.wills@louisville.edu.

Also, please keep an eye out for a future installment with advice for current/prospective students from this fabulous group of SPHIS alumni.

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