April/May 2018 Practicum Spotlight - Natalie Tomaszewski

Track: Epidemiology & Biostatistics

Practicum Site: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington

How did you find your Practicum Site? I found the position through an Epidemiology & Biostatistics internships list website called stattrak.amstat.org. It had both Ph.D. and master’s level positions and sometimes positions in other relatable fields.

What were some projects you worked on? I worked with two backend developers and one frontend user experience expert to develop a bio-surveillance app prototype called EpiEvident. It monitors, compares, and forecasts notifiable disease case counts simultaneously on a global scale. I developed the workflow methodology and forecast algorithms to accommodate any combination of country and disease.

What did you find most rewarding about this experience? I learned so much that I didn’t think was possible and I am especially grateful for my mentors and teammates. This practicum was very unique in that we were able to use our creativity and develop our own product from scratch. I also learned new skills that I wouldn’t learn in a traditional classroom.

This practicum both challenged and encouraged me and my team to think and approach public health issues in new ways and that’s what was made the experience so rewarding.

How did the MPH Program help prepare you for this experience? The MPH program allowed the flexibility for me to explore what kind of practicum experience I wanted to have. After finishing my analysis courses at the time, it gave me a stronger background and only further prepared me for the practicum. Also, meeting with Paula Amezola at the career center helped further prepare my CV, application, and interviewing that made all the difference in obtaining the position.   

What was the biggest takeaway? I learned that in order to find and get a practicum position, I had to do a lot of application preparation, searching, and asking around to know what opportunities were available. For this particular practicum, I definitely had to challenge and push myself out of my comfort zone since it is not what many public health students typically do but I’m thankful I did. My advice to anyone looking for an opportunity is to put your best foot forward, don’t let challenges intimidate you, and be open to new experiences because it may end up becoming a valuable learning experience.

April/May 2018 Alumni Spotlight - Surabhi Narain, MPH

Track: Health Education and Promotion

Which organization will you be working at? I will be a Shield Emerging Leader at Blue Shield of California.

How did you find your first job after completing the MPH Program? I found out about the Shield Emerging Leader Program through a high school classmate of mine on LinkedIn. I reached out to my former classmate to learn more about the position, organization, and application process. 

What does your job entail? As a Shield Emerging Leader, I will have the opportunity to rotate through different business units such as Corporate, Customer Experience, and Health Care Quality and Affordability and work on various projects aimed at improving healthcare accessibility and affordability for Californians. Through this rotational program, I will also be participating in Blue Shield’s leadership development curriculum. My first year will be spent at the HQ in San Francisco, and my second year will be spent at the Sacramento Office. 

What did the application process entail? The online application opened up in November 2017 and the deadline was in January 2018. I first had a phone interview in January, then an in-person interview in February. The in-person interview consisted of two 1:1 interviews and a group case study.

Do you have any advice for students and new grads currently job hunting?

I highly recommend utilizing LinkedIn and your professional/academic network. I primarily used LinkedIn premium and it really helped with the entire job hunt process and networking with USC alumni. LinkedIn Premium has many neat features that can help you refine your job search and reach out to recruiters and employers. Job hunting can definitely be an arduous task, but I advise being persistent and patient. Don’t give up!

How did the MPH Program and/or your practicum experience help prepare you for your job?

The MPH program provided me with lots of relevant knowledge and skills. The Health Service Delivery Class was especially helpful in understanding health insurance and quality improvement efforts. My practicum at the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health was also very helpful in providing me with first-hand experience working on a quality improvement project in a specialty care setting.

A quote or motto you live by or any inspirational quote that motivates you.

“We will never have a perfect world, but it’s not romantic or naïve to work toward a better one.” – Steven Pinker

You may contact Surabhi at snarain@usc.edu

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