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What It Takes to Succeed at a Top School of Public Health

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Every day, public health professionals around the world work in government, industries, and the nonprofit sector to promote and protect individual and community health.

Whether their jobs involve consulting, healthcare management, research, pharmaceuticals, medicine, or community practice, these professionals all rely on their rigorous public health training and education to succeed.

A public health education is both diverse and interdisciplinary. It encompasses the analytics of statistics and hard sciences; the behavioral considerations of psychology, anthropology, and sociology; and the process-oriented skill sets of management, politics, and advocacy. Success in public health also relies on effective collaboration and communication, and the ability to work with, understand, and respect diverse communities as public health issues are addressed.

Further, future public health leaders must have a deep desire to not only generate rigorous science-based evidence and new knowledge for the public good, but also be willing and able to put that knowledge into action to improve population health.

So, what does it take to succeed in this diverse and demanding environment and, ultimately, in a public health career?

Driven to serve

Mary Keefe, director of admissions at Yale School of Public Health (YSPH), has seen thousands of applications from students interested in changing the world through public health. But the most successful students, she says, have something special in their character — a drive, a focus, a lived experience, a sense of purpose and mission, that distinguishes them from the rest.

Mary Keefe

Director of Admissions, Yale School of Public Health

“We are looking for students who have an idea of what it is they’d like to do with their degree, and the impact they want to make on the world or their local community.”

“We’re looking for people who bring something to the table beyond just what the application might tell us,” she said. “In my role in admissions, I am looking for extraordinary students — for students who will really add to the depth and richness of the program, in terms of their classmates, their faculty, and the other staff they encounter, but also in their engagement with the greater community.”

A sense of focus and purpose is important. “We are looking for students who have an idea of what it is they’d like to do with their degree, and the impact they want to make on the world or their local community,” Keefe said. “The wide breadth of perspective and background and life experience is important — academics, and experiences that are public health-focused and their goals with the degree.”

Keefe also stresses that the meaning of success can differ from one student to the next, depending on why they come here, by the departments they choose, their life paths, what they want to study, and what they hope to do with their degree when they graduate.

“Being a successful student, I think, really demands that they apply themselves to rigorous coursework, to get the skills that they need and the public health perspective in different focus areas,” she said.

A collaborative experience

For students juggling passions or looking to apply multiple fields of study, a public health degree offers the opportunity to ensure that any range of interests has impact and purpose. This kind of interdisciplinary and creative thinking is central to the YSPH student experience.

At YSPH, several postgraduate and doctoral degree options serve as pathways into this full, collaborative experience. The Master of Public Health (M.P.H.) is a top choice for future changemakers determined to specialize. It allows students to complement their foundational knowledge with interdisciplinary concentrations, such as Global Health, Public Health Modeling, Climate Change and Health, or U.S. Health Justice.

YSPH offers a range of Joint Degree Programs, as well as a Hybrid Executive M.P.H. for working professionals interested in leadership. A variety of M.S. and Ph.D. programs are also offered.

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