DESCRIBE GROWING UNDERSTANDINGS AND ACHIEVEMENTS OVER THE FIRST YEAR OF STUDY AT THE UW AS THEY REFLECT PROGRESS TOWARD MEETING THE OBJECTIVES.
I decided on graduate school as a means to learn new skills and gain knowledge to enhance and build on my 27 years of experience as a dietitian, working with older adults in the community. My expectation is that with an MPH, I will be able to pursue a broader scope of practice within other populations, and in a variety of settings beyond the non-profit organizational model, with which I am most familiar. In the long-term, I plan to work within, or create, an organization that addresses policy, program and evaluation needs of the community.
My objectives include the following:
Achieve a solid, up-to-date scientific base of knowledge regarding determinants and physiological mechanisms involved in the diseases of greatest public health interest
Become increasingly knowledgeable of the role of nutrition and specific nutrients in the etiology and treatment of diseases and conditions, especially those of greatest public health interest
Learn how to conduct scientific literature reviews and to critically evaluate scientific papers
Learn about policies which impact access, quality and cost of food and nutrition services
Learn about evidence-based nutrition and physical activity policies and interventions which are designed to address major public health issues
Learn about existing methods and models, appropriate for use in evaluating community programs and services
Design and apply appropriate methods of evaluation for programs and/or policy
Explore unmet needs for public health practitioners "of the future" to fill
Gain an increased understanding of the relationships between the public health and medical systems in the United States, in hope of helping to bridge the gaps in the future
Develop a meaningful thesis project that has the potential to inform effective community intervention development, in a population previously unfamiliar to me.
My first year of study moved me closer toward each of the goals and objectives listed above. While many specific examples of skills and knowledge gained are reflected in the competency section of this portfolio, other aspects of my education have served to open my eyes to previously unknown opportunities, explore new aspects of public health practice, and dramatically highlight and enhance the skills that I learned "on-the-ground," during my work experiences over the past 27 years. A specific example involves the discussions and readings in Public Health Nutrition about communication and leadership styles. While I have often received positive feedback regarding my abilities to build and lead successful and motivated teams, it was invaluable to understand the theories behind certain successful and less-successful styles and approaches. Most importantly, I was able to reflect on some of the less-successful projects or interventions that I have been involved in, and understand which elements may have contributed to the lack of success. Throughout this first year, in each and every class, I found myself relating the content to my work experiences. There were many "aha" moments of understanding and excitement about getting back out in the community, and being a better practitioner. In some instances, it was a better understanding of mechanisms of disease which would have allowed me to answer a question better, or enhance a presentation. In others, I found myself re-thinking approaches I had previously employed to evaluate program outcomes.
More than ever, I understand the need for public health practitioners who are creative problem-solvers, knowledgeable, and who have real-life experience. During the first year of studies, I was extremely fortunate to also be a research assistant for the Exploratory Center for Obesity Research (ECOR). In that role and in some classes as well, I have been able to...
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