“The beauty of Public Health is that there is always another facet to explore and the opportunities, with a little digging and networking, are endless.”
Jolyn Hull (class of 2014) shares her experience in the CWU public health program, with some valuable advice for students as they enter fieldwork or further graduate studies.
Why did you choose public health as a major?
From the time I was 10 (mostly fueled by sibling rivalry), I was determined to be a lawyer. But, I distinctly remember the day it suddenly felt unappealing. I still have no idea what sparked that feeling, but I knew I no longer wanted to pursue law school. I began looking at different career paths, but couldn’t seem to find one that drew me in. A few months later, I was sitting in my geography lecture and we started discussing population health. I was disturbed by the health status of those in the country we were studying, but also was awakened to the fact that health outcomes in the U.S. are not what they should be either. I wanted to help, but didn’t realize the potential career path until later that day when I overheard a public health student talking about a project she was working on around food access. I asked her what she was studying and she told me public health. I registered for a few classes in the public health program to test it out, and declared my major shortly after a few lectures.
What have you been doing since graduating from the program?
I was a five-years plan kind of person so, when I was offered a permanent position at the end of internship at Swedish Cancer Institute, it only seemed natural to accept. I developed educational tools, algorithms, and processes for patients to obtain information throughout their continuum of care. I sat for my Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) exam, and my 5-year plan started to feel more like my 10 year plan. After about a year at SCI, I decided to pursue my Masters in Health Communication from Boston University which would allow me to continue working at SCI and complete another step in my plan. Almost immediately after beginning the coursework, I felt the urge to return to the “trenches”; I wanted to do community health work again. I struggled a lot with this feeling because I felt secure in my seemingly stable plan, but eventually started started looking out for different opportunities. After a series of well-time connections and a few months of digging, I stumbled across a non-profit called Community Choice Health & Education Institute based in Wenatchee, Wa. I say stumbled because I actually discovered their existence through one of the major health centers in Central Washington that I had been in contact with for a few months around possible employment opportunities. Out of curiosity and a bit of desperation, I reached out and got connected with who I would later find out was the Executive Director. After a few coffee dates, I was offered a position as the Health Education & Outreach Coordinator for the North Central Region of WA. I gladly accepted and am now coordinating the Stanford Chronic Disease Self-Management Programs throughout North Central WA. Had you asked me what my plan was even 6 months ago, I would have told you a completely different story. But, I found my trench and love being able to serve my community again.
What would you recommend to other students who might want to follow a similar path?
Try things and take chances. What appeared from the outside to most as a step backwards for my career ended up being a fantastic, career-advancing move. You don’t have to stay stagnant and don’t worry what others think. The beauty of Public Health is that there is always another faucet to explore and the opportunities, with a little digging and networking, are endless.
And just for fun…if you were a part of a bicycle, what would you be?
The gears, because I love puns and my life seems to always be shifting… sometimes harder than other times, but it’s necessary!