Lauren Fifarek

Sulagna Chakt=raborty

What inspired you to pursue an MPH degree?

I majored in Community Health with a concentration of Health Education and Promotion for my undergraduate degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. During my junior year, my advisor, Carol Firkins, informed me of the BSMPH program and how it was just one extra year of school and I would earn both my Bachelor’s and my Master’s. I was sold! I knew I wanted to go into Public Health, and this was a program that allowed me to get it done in a very short amount of time. I was also inspired by Lena Hann, who at the time was my Human Sexuality professor. I loved how passionate, knowledgeable, and inclusive she was, and I knew I wanted to go into sexual health education after taking her class.

Why did you chose Illinois for your MPH?

I chose Illinois for my MPH because I went there for my undergraduate degree and really enjoyed the classes I took, the professors I worked with, and the fact that earning my Master’s would only take 12 months. The gorgeous campus was also a plus!

How did your Illinois MPH degree help prepare you to work in the field OR what were the highlights of your time in the MPH program?

After earning my MPH, I went on to do an 11-month AmeriCorps program working as a Health Educator with Erie Family Health Center. I was able to teach various classes to our patients, on topics such as prenatal nutrition, Diabetes 101, sexual health education, etc. My MPH prepared me for the educational and research part of the position. I understood the importance of implementation, data collection, and evaluation. Thanks to my volunteer position, I was later hired on to be a full time employee with Erie and worked under the Teen Pregnancy Prevention grant for two years. I taught comprehensive sexual health education classes to middle and high school students, collected data, and evaluated whether or not the information was effective. I was able to incorporate a lot of information I learned from my Health Behavior Theory class, as well as Health Program Evaluation. I felt fully prepared for this role thanks to my education and experience during my MPH year.

What advice do you have for current students or prospective students?

My advice is just do it! Follow your dreams- if you know you are interested in public health, especially if there is a specific field in public health (maternal and child health, sexual health, epidemiology, bio-statistics, etc.) that excites you, intrigues you, motivates you- apply for the program and work hard to earn the degree and have a career that you are passionate about! Do not let the expense of school or the thought of a challenge steer you away. Let your passions drive you.

PS hopefully it is easy to see, but my picture says "Fuel your passion"

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