I was a postdoctoral research fellow and had finished my PhD in non-clinical psychology when I decided to go back. My PhD concentration was in evolutionary psychology, and my postdoctoral concentration was in addiction studies. I wanted to contribute to prevention and intervention efforts but did not yet have this expertise.
I had thought about an MPH when I was in grad school, but it seemed like a long, arduous process, so I put it on the back burner. A colleague put me in touch with Sarah Heavey [Community Health and Health Behavior’s director of MPH programs] who told me about the accelerated MPH program at UB and that many of my PhD credits would transfer. I could jump right into the core classes rather than having to retake subjects I had already studied, like statistics. My program was individualized, so I was able to get the core competencies and immediately relate them to my research.
A big reason for my decision to go with the online program was that a lot of it was asynchronous. With my full-time job including research, being able to do the program during evenings and weekends was important. Getting to campus would have interfered with the progress of my research. With some of the online classes, I could listen to modules in the car or at lunch. Some offered supplemental materials like YouTube videos and Podcasts that might go into more depth. Almost every class had a discussion board, and I also had one or two group projects coordinated online.
Seeing how my colleagues and peers were teaching. For instance, I had been out of the classroom for a long time and wasn’t familiar with a lot of online teaching tools that had become available. So, when the courses I had been teaching in a classroom went online due to COVID-19, I was already familiar with what to do based on the online MPH courses I took at UB.
I also learned the mathematical background and nuances of public health terms, like incidence and prevalence, that I had come across during my psychology studies. That helped me expand my knowledge base and speak the language of public health confidently.
I had never experienced being in school online, and I had been removed from the classroom as a student for about five years. Online classes were a big change for me.
I’m good at meeting deadlines, but working at off-peak hours was different. Starting my coursework after dinner was tough sometimes; you have to be committed. I took a lot of credits each semester, so my nights and weekends had to be devoted to the program.
The support of faculty was excellent, even when the class formats varied. For instance, to get the micro-credential in eliminating health disparities, I took one in-person and one online class. Some online courses ran themselves, and you could check in with your instructor as needed. In other courses, you saw more of your instructor. In some of the specialty courses, I saw the professors a lot. But even in the foundational knowledge courses, I was always able to reach my professors.
I was looking to be more competitive in the job market. Staying in academia was important to me, and I wanted to set myself apart from my peers by learning about health education and behavior, having public health foundational knowledge, and committing my time and energy to the field. The job market for faculty positions is very competitive. I now have a faculty position and like to think that having my MPH contributed to getting the position.
The MPH is the sweet spot between psychology and public health. I study alcohol-related sexual assault, and I’m now better able to work in intervention and prevention research.
I was a very particular example--a postdoc in pandemic times. For others in that position, I’d highly recommend UB because it caters to people who want to supplement their PhD. I even had in my classes some MDs and others who had finished their terminal degree. It’s ideal for someone further along in their academic career.
The number one thing is, do it if it’s your passion. It’s a big time commitment, but what you get out of it is what you put in. You’ll see a real increase in your knowledge base. If you commit one or two years to this as your extracurricular endeavor, you can make it work. An MPH is very marketable, and you can do a lot of different things with the degree. I’ve seen many of my peers from SPHHP go on to great things.