Denisonians in Health Professions: Public Health

Denisonians in health professions: public - clare-meernik-253x300.png image #0Clare Meernik ’12

Role: Public Health-Epidemiology

Graduate School attended: University of Michigan School of Public Health, graduated in 2014

Current Job: Research Associate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Tobacco Prevention and Evaluation Program

Fun Fact:
After grad school, I bought my first road bike and started competing in triathlons. Since I started racing two years ago, I’ve completed 8 triathlons, including four Half Ironmans.      

Describe the process you went through to select your career path: what impacted your decision?
I always knew I wanted to pursue a career in health sciences, but the only solid options I was aware of were becoming a doctor, a PA, or a PT. Thinking about the hours and time involved with attending medical school was not appealing to me, not to mention my dislike of blood and other gross stuff involving the body. I came across public health, and specifically epidemiology, as a career option while interning at the University of Kentucky Ovarian Cancer Screening Center the summer between my sophomore and junior years at Denison. Epidemiology is concerned with understanding, preventing, and treating disease at the population level, rather than on a case by case basis that a doctor deals with. I liked the idea that, as an epidemiologist, I would have the potential to improve health outcomes on a broad scale; for instance, epidemiologists are involved in developing cancer screening recommendations for the entire population (e.g., who should be screened and when? What negative effects result from over screening?). Once I became aware of epidemiology as a career path, I knew it was the perfect choice for me.

What are your favorite aspects of your profession?
My favorite part of being in the public health field is that my colleagues all genuinely care about improving people’s lives. Public health programs are continually being underfunded or even cut, at the expense of our nation’s health and our ability to respond to public health crisis such as an epidemic of an infectious disease. Everyone I have interacted with in the public health field continues to fight for increased funding of programs and enactment of policies that improve health outcomes and overcome health disparities.           

What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
Public health funding is often not on the top of policymakers’ budgets because the dollars and lives saved are often not seen until they are long out of office. Specifically, in my field, tobacco is considered by many to be an old issue that we’ve already conquered, resulting in severe underfunding of tobacco control and prevention programs. The fact is, more than 35 million Americans still smoke, resulting in nearly 500,000 deaths each year in the U.S. Tobacco control and prevention is a top priority in the public health field, though convincing policymakers to fund programs and enact policies that address the huge burden of tobacco remains challenging.

Describe what a typical day looks like for you.
My typical day involves a variety of different projects, which always keeps me on my feet. I may be conducting data analysis related to the evaluation of community-based tobacco cessation programs, which involves descriptive statistics (e.g., What are the demographics of those who enrolled in the programs?) and regression models (e.g., What demographic and program utilization factors are associated with tobacco cessation 7 months after the end of the program?). In addition to program evaluation, I am also involved in various tobacco control research projects. For instance, I managed a study examining how the different packaging elements of little cigar and cigarillos (e.g., pack color, flavor, and warnings) affects people’s perception and use of those products. My role in the project involved developing survey items, data analysis and interpretation, and drafting a manuscript for publication.  

What advice would you give a student interested in pursuing your field?
Epidemiology is a great career path for someone who is passionate about improving health at a local, national, or international level. The number of different paths within epidemiology are endless–from HIV prevention in Swaziland to cancer screening in rural Appalachia. If you are interested in potentially pursuing a career as an epidemiologist, take as many statistics and data analytics courses you can while at Denison; these will help tremendously in preparing you for your MPH. If you are nearing the end of your Denison career and have not had the opportunity to take many of these courses, don’t worry! I went into my MPH not having the opportunity to take any courses related to public health while at Denison. Many of my classmates in grad school were biology or health science majors, but many were not. Public health graduate programs are interested in students with diverse backgrounds, not just those from the health sciences. As long as you can demonstrate a passion for why you want to pursue a career in public health, programs will be interested in you!

Denisonians in Health Professions: Nursing

Denisonians in health professions: nursing - dr.-tina-andrews-parks-197x300.png image #0Dr. Tina Andrews-Parks ’05

Role: Clinical Education Specialist/ Registered Nurse

Professional Schools attended: Purdue University, graduated 2015 and DePaul University, graduated 2007       

Fun Fact: I am part of Denison Posse #1 and Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc.

Describe the process you went through to select your career path: what impacted your decision?
I was a very sick child. I spent most of my childhood in the Cook County Hospital of Chicago, IL because I was also uninsured. This experience directly impacted what I wanted to do in my life, and that was to be an “ambassador” for world health. This led me to Chicago Vocational High School in which I became a Certified Nurse’s Assistant at 16 years old and a Licensed Practical Nurse at 18. During my first semester at Denison, while others were having fun, I was studying to pass the state board of nursing. At Denison, I majored in communication while completing pre-professional course work. My specialty is in gerontology and Medical Surgical Nursing.  Nursing chose me. Nursing is not just my profession, it’s who I am. 

What are your favorite aspects of your profession?
The field of nursing has allowed me to fulfill my love for both STEM and Liberal Arts. I love science (especially biology) as well as writing and research. I have the opportunity to experience the science of healthcare through pharmacology and pathophysiology but also train others and do public speaking workshops on qualitative matters that affect the human aspects of disease maintenance. This makes me an informed, compassionate resource for the field.

What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
It is challenging to see good people die in a failing system. In this field you get to know the patients and their families personally. Many times people perish for the lack of knowledge or access to care. Healthcare often blurs the lines of business and ethics and the two are very challenging to wade through. Our political environments are constantly changing and humans are directly affected every day to the point of death. Healthcare is a field that does not stay the same. Sometimes a patient can miss an opportunity for a life sustaining treatment by one day because of funding cuts or changes in legislation. It is devastating and can take an emotional toll on everyone involved.

Describe what a typical day looks like for you.
There is no typical day in the life of a healthcare professional which is one of the many reasons I love the job. This job will always present you with new people, new discoveries and new ways to treat the ever evolving human.        

What advice would you give a student interested in pursuing your field?
Nursing is a multi-faceted career that touches almost every aspect of the human existence. It allows you to explore, expand, and combine your many passions to make for a fulfilled career.  Nursing can open doors into fields such as higher education, law, government, pharmaceuticals, international affairs, social work, mental health, travel and even the food and drug industry. I have never regretted my choice to become a Doctor of Nursing Practice. This is my calling.

Denisonians in Health Professions: Team Physician

Denisonians in health professions: team physician - grant-jones-205x300.png image #0Grant Jones ’88

Role: Allopathic Team Physician

Professional School attended:
The Ohio State University College of Medicine, graduated in 1992

Current Titles: Team Physician-Department of Athletics and Professor- Department of Orthopaedic Surgery

Fun Fact: As a team physician for Ohio State’s basketball team, I have been known to get excited at times during games.  During one game, one of our players hit a game-winning shot to win the Big Ten Title.  I was so excited that I ran onto the court before realizing that there were .7 seconds left on the clock.  I promptly ran back to the bench, but not before being caught on TV doing so.  Unfortunately, the mad shot was the ESPN play of the week that was replayed over and over again.  I could not watch ESPN for a week due to the embarrassment!

Describe the process you went through to select your career path: what impacted your decision?
I was injured quite often growing up- several lacerations and broken bones.  So, I spent a lot of time in physician’s offices, particular Orthopaedic surgeons.  And, all of the physicians I met seemed to really enjoy what they were doing.  I was also influenced by my brother, who also went to Denison, four years ahead of me.  He ended up in pre-medicine and then went on to medical school at Ohio State as well.  In terms of Orthopaedic Sports Medicine, my specialty, I love sports and I love surgery, so my occupation allows me to do both.

What are your favorite aspects of your profession?
I really enjoy surgery, particularly challenging cases, during which you often have to be real creative.  I also enjoy covering athletic events and covering athletic training rooms.  It is very gratifying to see an athlete whom I have worked on return to his or her sport.

What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
The hours can be very long.  Some days, I leave at 5 o’clock in the morning to do surgery, and then have to go straight from work to cover a sporting event until 11-12 at night.  I also take trauma calls, during which I am up operating all night before having to go into work that AM.

Describe what a typical day looks like for you.
Surgery usually starts at 7 AM.  I then operate until 3-5 PM depending on the day.  After that, I often cover one of OSU’s athletic training rooms until 5-6 PM.  During the school year, I often have to cover sporting events after training room.  If there are no sporting events to cover, then I return home around 6 and eat dinner with my family before getting a work out in.         

What advice would you give a student interested in pursuing your field?
Spend as much time as possible shadowing physicians to make sure that this field is right for you.  Work is often difficult and long, but it is very gratifying when you can help someone.  Make sure that you are able to put the time and effort into medical school, residency and practicing medicine.  It is a lot of hard work.  Also, I would advise looking into completing summer research projects in medicine.  This certainly helps when applying to medical school.

Denisonians in Health Professions: Genetic Counseling

A path to health professions: genetic counseling - karen-raraigh-265x300.png image #0Karen Raraigh ’06 (Siklosi)

Role: Genetic Counselor

Graduate School attended: University of Maryland School of Medicine, graduated in 2008 with Masters in Genetic Counseling                       

Fun Fact: I am a die-hard Green Bay Packers fan despite having no connections to the state of Wisconsin.

Describe the process you went through to select your career path: what impacted your decision?
I became interested in genetics – and specifically cystic fibrosis (CF) – while in high school.  My intent was to get a PhD and work in a lab, but spending the summer doing CF research in a lab environment changed my mind about what kind of work I wanted to do within the field of genetics. 

That summer, I learned about genetic counseling from people working around me and decided that I liked having patient interaction and a more “hands on” feel to how my work would impact a person.  By the end of the summer, I nixed my plans to apply to PhD programs and instead applied to genetic counseling programs.  It was the experience of actually doing what I thought I wanted in a career, as well as having access to people who could show me other options that helped me pick a better choice.

Identifying what you don’t want in a job is equally important to understanding what you do want, and I am forever grateful for the opportunity to figure this out before investing too much time into the wrong graduate program. My summer project adviser was equally supportive and was instrumental in helping me find my current genetic counseling position, despite me having left his lab saying, “I don’t want to do what you do.”

What are your favorite aspects of your profession?
The daily challenge of new and interesting patients, the speed at which the field of genetics is changing, and the incredibly smart and talented people with whom I get to interact on a regular basis.       

What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
Giving bad news, like a new or difficult diagnosis, is never easy, nor is having to tell someone, “We don’t know,” when it comes to predicting an individual’s future health.  Not becoming too invested can be a struggle sometimes, depending on the specific case or family.

Describe what a typical day looks like for you.
My time is mostly divided amongst data curation and analysis (collecting and correcting data elements, running statistical programs, and summarizing results), writing (manuscripts, elements of grant applications/progress reports, or educational material), and communicating with or about patients (research recruitment, consulting on challenging cases, or answering genetics-related questions).  Each day may have a different mix of these elements.      

What advice would you give a student interested in pursuing your field?
Find a genetic counselor to speak with (at the very least) and to shadow (multiple times)!  There are a wide variety of opportunities within the field of genetic counseling and most of us are happy to share information about what we do.  Most graduate programs want to see a good understanding of the field, and experiencing it in a “hands on” way with a practicing counselor is the best way to gain exposure.

Denisonians in Health Professions: Art Therapy

A path to health professions: art therapy - michelle-chavez-241x300.png image #0

Michelle Chavez ’07 (Oldford)

Role:  Art Therapist

Graduate School attended: Adler University, 2010 graduate

Fun Fact: I grew up on a horse farm. 

Describe the process you went through to select your career path: what impacted your decision? 
When I graduated from Denison I had no idea what I wanted to do as a career.  I knew that I wanted to work with children, and that I loved art, so I used that as a starting point.  I looked into different career options and stumbled upon art therapy.  Art therapy seemed like a perfect way to combine my interests in psychology and medicine with my love of art.  Even though it was unplanned, I had almost all the courses necessary to pursue the Master’s Degree required to be an art therapist. 

As I moved through my graduate work and narrowed my interest field, I was drawn to working in the medical environment.  Art therapists practice anywhere that psychological services are offered, and I was drawn to the unique needs of pediatric patients undergoing hospitalized treatments. 

What are your favorite aspects of your profession?
Easily, the best part of my job is getting to know patients and families.  People think of children’s hospitals as sad places, and while of course some moments are sad, for the most part kids are just trying to be kids, and I can help build up coping skills, and process difficult moments through art.  The kids and families that I work with are incredibly resilient and I am inspired by their strength on a daily basis.          

What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
Art therapy is a greatly misunderstood profession, so it gets tiresome explaining that I’m not doing “crafts” with the patients, that I am a licensed counselor and that we are doing therapy, just using art instead of words.  We are constantly having to justify our services. 

Describe what a typical day looks like for you.
My days never look the same, which is one of the things that I love.  There is no monotony.  But “typically” I do a few hours of administrative work in the morning, answering emails, placing supply orders, etc. I spend late mornings either providing supervision for my intern or providing art therapy to patients in our outpatient hematology/oncology area.  I usually have patient rounds or staff meetings over lunch.  After lunch I have one-on-one bedside sessions with patients, mostly in our Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Pulmonary unit (seeing patients with cystic fibrosis), Oncology unit, and with post-surgical and trauma patients.  Once a week I have a scrapbooking support group with families with infants in our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.  The end of the day I spend charting on my sessions.  I have to be self-motivated, and I work within a large multi-disciplinary department, collaborating with art and music therapists, child life specialists, school teachers, nurses, doctors, social workers, and chaplains.         

What advice would you give a student interested in pursuing your field?
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in art therapy, as an undergraduate take as many different kinds of art classes as possible.  It never ceases to amaze me how many classes I look back to when patients let their imaginations run, and we end up making giant sculptures, molds, sitting and painting, or drawing together.  I also always think it’s a good idea to attend a professional conference in the field you’re thinking of pursuing.  It’s an easy way to get an idea of what’s going on in the field, clarify any misconceptions, and meet people in the field.   

Denisonians in Health Professions: Physician Assistant

Denisonians in health professions: physician assistant - tiffani-dorn-294x300.png image #0Tiffani Dorn ’12

Role: Physician Assistant 
Professional School attended: Ohio Dominican University, graduated 2014           
Fun Fact: I am a youth leader and also lead mission teams to Honduras annually.

Describe the process you went through to select your career path: what impacted your decision?
I initially decided on going into medicine when speaking with a gentleman who ran a mission organization in Haiti. I asked him for advice as someone who wanted to do mission work. He said one of the best things to do is to learn a skill that I could use on the field. That was the summer before starting college, so I started looking into medical school at that point. However, in the back of my mind, I was concerned with the amount of time and money it would take before I could practice on my own.

In 2009 after my sophomore year, I went to Haiti for 3 weeks for a medical mission internship. Fortunately, that summer there was a PA from Kentucky working there with his family for 2 months who mentored me. After learning about the PA profession and that PAs can do almost everything that a physician can with a much more condensed schooling and tuition cost (though still a huge commitment), I decided that’s what I wanted to do.

I did a medical mission internship in Ghana in 2011 to get more experience in healthcare and serve the underserved.

What are your favorite aspects of your profession?
The best part about being a PA is having the knowledge and skill set to really help people. As compared to other healthcare providers (MDs, DOs, and NPs), PAs do not have to specialize in a certain field so we can transition between specialties. So far, I have worked in urgent care as a solo provider and in orthopedics seeing patients in the office and first assisting in surgery. I also like having the autonomy to see my own patients and do what I think is best for their care, while also having a physician who I can consult if I see something I have not seen before.

What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
Any job in medicine is challenging. It is mentally challenging (in a good way!) to assess patients and come up with the best treatment of care for that unique person. It also has its social and bureaucratic challenges in both the work setting and with patients who may think differently than you or may not be compliant with their healthcare. Also, the paperwork is my least favorite and most time consuming thing.

Describe what a typical day looks like for you.       
In my orthopedic job, my typical day consists of seeing patients for follow-up, post-op, or walk-in appointments. I do a history and physical exam of each patient, order and interpret testing (x-rays, MRI, CT, labs, EMG, etc.) when needed, give joint injections, fit braces, give rehabilitative exercises, place casts and splints, and whatever else is needed. In surgery, I work as a “first assist”. This includes helping prep the patient for surgery, retract tissue, suction, close the incision (suture/staple), dress the wound, and help get the patient back to the post-op area.

In my urgent care job, I was the only provider on my days there. I would see each patient that came in, diagnose them or order proper testing, and prescribe medication. I would also do any procedures and perform physicals.

What advice would you give a student interested in pursuing your field?
I would advise you to shadow in the field to see if it is something you really enjoy! I have had multiple students shadow with me and love answering any questions and showing them what a PA does! I would also advise you to really think about your motivations for wanting to be a PA (or whatever you decide) and use that as inspiration when times get tough or stressful.