As someone with an MPH, an established career in health care and more than five years post GRE, USF College of Public Health alumna Angela Thomas, DrPH, was looking for an accredited doctoral public health program that would acknowledge and leverage her expertise, previous education, and would allow her to balance school with her other obligations. The COPH met all of those requirements.
Born and raised in Detroit, Thomas earned her BS and MPH from the University of Michigan and her MBA from Walsh College of Accountancy and Business.
Thomas was first introduced to public health as a senior in college.
“I was formerly pre-med and did not know that there was a way to do what I really wanted to do in health care – work with people to help them lead healthier lives – without being a doctor,” she said. “I was introduced to public health two weeks before the deadline to be admitted to the MPH program. I scrambled to get an application in, but I did and was admitted.”
Thomas said she loved being able to earn her DrPH in the advanced practice leadership in public health program.
“I really enjoyed the program. It’s perfect for the professionals who want to earn their doctorate with academic rigor along with the opportunity to meet faculty and peers, but need the flexibility for life and work. There were lots of changes to the program along the way, but being able to adjust is part of life. There’s always change,” she said.
During her time as a student at the COPH, Thomas was inspired by Dean Donna Petersen.
“I’m a student of leadership and when I took Dean Petersen’s leadership course at our first Summer Institute, she shared so much of her leadership journey and philosophy, I found myself inspired by that journey,” Thomas said.
While there were typical student challenges along the way, this was her first out of four degrees she received without having to raise a child.
During her senior year of high school, Thomas had her son. At 17 years old with her son in tow, she went to live on the University of Michigan’s campus so she could earn her bachelor’s degree. She then went on to earn her MPH and MBA all while raising him and working.
“He’s a senior in college himself now, so for this degree, he was away at school, she said. “I still had work and my husband and a yorkie to care for, but that was a piece of cake compared to raising a small child while trying to do it all!”
December 8 is a significant date for the Thomas Family. In 1992, Thomas’ mother was shot five times. Miraculously, the parole officer survived the incident. That’s also the birthday of Thomas’ aunt. Fast forward to 2017 and yet another milestone shares the stage for December 8—that’s the date that her mom, aunt and many other family members traveled from Detroit to celebrate the end of Thomas’ doctoral program.
“As the first person in my family to receive a doctoral degree, this is special because we get to replace the significance of December 8th with something positive, and my aunt gets to think of her birthday again in a more positive light. It’s a very special day for my entire family!”
After graduation, Thomas will continue working in her role as executive director of MedStar Health Services Research Network. As the executive director, she is responsible for research development, compliance, human resource, administration, finance and operations for MedStar’s health services research program.
“What I love about my position is the variety of projects we work on that translate into real-world changes in the way we deliver care. I love the blend between administration and science that it offers me as I love both,” she said. “I enjoy being able to meet and collaborate with so many experts from so many different backgrounds inside and outside of the organization.”
Thomas is already applying what she learned at the COPH in her professional career. During her doctoral field study project, she worked with MedStar implementing a pilot version of her doctoral research. She looked at race differences in harmful patient safety events as reported in a single system. She found that there were some race differences with interesting results emerging by hospital and by type of event.
“My doctoral work was a real-world project that my organization will continue,” she said. “In addition, I’ll be publishing work on the project and many other projects at MedStar. The skills I learned in writing for scholarly publications will certainly go to work!”
Story by Caitlin Keough, USF College of Public Health