By Tory Bruch
I am a second year graduate student earning my Master of Public Health in Maternal and Child Health. Though I entered the program with limited professional working experience, I have taken advantage of the many opportunities available to students in the School of Public Health; I have found jobs and volunteer opportunities that have helped me develop and cultivate a wide range of skills and interests. I volunteer with the Phillips Neighborhood Clinic, a free clinic run by students in the University of Minnesota Academic Health Center. I also work as a Graduate Research Assistant at the Center for Leadership Education in Maternal and Child Public Health, and worked as a research assistant with my academic advisor, Dr. Ellen Demerath, on a study examining the effect of maternal BMI on breast milk macronutrient content.
My most challenging and intensive experience was made possible through the Community Health Initiative (CHI) Community Internship Program. The program, funded by Medica and administered by the University of Minnesota Office for Business & Community Economic Development, pairs graduate and professional students with community-based nonprofit organizations and small businesses who serve communities of color and who provide services or address factors impacting health and socioeconomic disparities in the communities they serve. I developed a health curriculum and worked as a health educator at the Building Resilient Families (BRF) program, a 90-day residential co-occurring chemical and mental health treatment facility for pregnant and parenting women. Unlike many residential treatment programs in Minnesota, BRF places special emphasis on healing from substance abuse and trauma as a family; dependent children ages 17 years and younger can live with clients in the BRF facility.
The internship proved to be the perfect setting to apply skills that I learned the previous academic year; I read current research literature and examined health data to craft lesson plans. I conducted three client feedback surveys to elicit feedback on my teaching performance and help clients identify health topics they were interested in learning more about.
Most significantly, I left the program with a new understanding of addiction as a chronic disease and walked away with renewed compassion towards people struggling with addiction and mental illness. These women and children were battling unbelievably heavy and dark histories of trauma, neglect, and abuse; I admired the strength and tenacity I witnessed and think about these women and children, and the staff who serve them, often.
The University of Minnesota School of Public Health has been a place of great personal and professional growth. I am excited to launch my career in public health after I graduate in the spring!
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