Public health graduate students travel near and far to improve health conditions around the world
“ … having the ability to explore and live in a foreign country for two months is a phenomenal component of the master’s degree in global communicable disease. If anything, this experience makes COPH graduates increasingly more well-rounded and more competitive for their future careers as public health professionals,” said Tiffany Piquet.
Piquet is one of 28 University of South Florida (USF) College of Public Health graduate students to embark on an international field experience (IFE) this year. In their quest to improve health conditions around the world, the students traveled to 13 countries and worked with populations in Belize, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Kazahkstan, Malaysia, Mexico, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and the Ivory Coast.
The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) views field experience as “A planned, supervised and evaluated practice experience that is an essential component of a public health professional degree program.” The USF College of Public Health is accredited by CEPH and was fully re-accredited for seven years in October 2011.
Field experience in the college is one of three culminating requirements for graduate students earning a master of public health, master of health administration, or master of science in public health degree in industrial hygiene. The experience can be domestic or international and is supervised by the student’s faculty advisor and field supervisor. For students traveling abroad, the placement must be in an agency, institution, or community in a developing country. Additionally, students are expected to learn about the host country in matters concerning: safety, health, legal, political, cultural, religious, gender, etiquette, and environmental considerations. Planning for an IFE should begin one-year prior to departure.
Before graduating in August, Curtis DeVetter, Tiffany Piquet, Mathieu Poirier, and Danielle Wales paused to share advice from the field with students contemplating an international experience in the future.
Take time to prepare in advance so that you come ready with a specific plan. Prepare the literature review before you arrive on site so you are already an expert on the topic and can begin work as soon as possible. –Danielle Wales, master of public health degree in global communicable diseases
Learning and knowing more of the local language would have helped me dramatically. At times, the language barrier prohibited me from sharing valuable information with community members, teachers, and staff. –Tiffany Piquet, master of public health degree in global communicable diseases
The IFE is a very different experience than any on-campus course. I would say that it requires more time and effort than taking six credit hours and that the stress level and difficulties are much greater than anything on campus. However, the positives of the rapid and continual learning curve, of putting your education into practice, and of doing it all in an international setting far outweigh any difficulties … the name recognition of PAHO/WHO makes it a very marketable internship for future employment or studies. I would count the IFE as the most important “course” during my time at USF. –Mathieu Poirier, master of public health degree in global health practice
I would encourage everyone to pursue projects outside of their primary curriculum, either through the Challenge Grant program or with faculty members in the College of Public Health and elsewhere who share particular interests. Every field is growing more interdisciplinary in their approaches, and reaching out is the only way to become involved. –Curtis DeVetter, master of public health degree in global health practice
This IFE placement has personally developed my organizational planning, effective program implementation, and communication abilities. Before this unique opportunity, I had never attempted to create, plan, or implement a new public health program. This experience has allowed me to investigate and examine abilities I never knew I had. –Tiffany Piquet, master of public health degree in global communicable diseases
Story by Barbara Kennedy, College of Public Health. Photos by Curtis DeVetter, Tiffany Piquet, and Mathieu Poirer