Laura Bradshaw – Student Spotlight
What is your concentration/specialization?
Social and Behavioral Sciences, online generalist specialization
What public health areas are you most interested in?
My main areas of interest are noncommunicable chronic diseases, particularly diabetes. I´m interested in the development of strategies to prevent the development of chronic diseases, as well as to facilitate the management of chronic diseases once they have developed. Additionally, I´m interested in the role that lifestyle behaviors, such as poor nutrition and physical inactivity, play in the development and management of chronic diseases.
What did you study in your undergraduate career or post-graduate career prior to beginning the MPH program?
My undergraduate degree is in Spanish Language and Literature, with a minor in Women´s Studies, which I received in 2008 from Transylvania University, a small liberal arts university located in Lexington, KY.
What first prompted your interest in public health?
Although I’ve always been interested in health-related issues, my interest in public health was really sparked through the experiences I have had living in Chile. I´m originally from Ohio and in 2009 I moved to Santiago, Chile, where I’ve lived for the past ten years. My introduction to the Chilean healthcare system and national health issues was through working on clinical trials conducted in Chile for international pharmaceutical companies, which I did for five years. It was through my work that I became more aware of public health issues, particularly economic-related health discrepancies and how they play out in the public healthcare system. Additionally, my own personal experience of living outside the U.S. and trying to establish a healthy lifestyle in a different country gave me greater insight into health issues that many Chileans face. I decided that I wanted to study a Master in Public Health to be able to contribute to preventing chronic diseases and improving health and quality of life in the country I now call home.
What interested you in the UF Public Health program?
Initially, I was interested in the program because of the MPH and UF´s great national and international ranking, the excellent professors with varied health research interests, and the program´s affordability. What really sold me on the program though was its flexibility, which would allow me to work and study, as well as to watch lectures and complete coursework at times convenient for me each week. Other programs that I looked at had rigid course scheduling and fixed lecture and/or exam times. I very much appreciate that UF´s MPH program considers that many students also work and have families, which is evident in how the online learning site, Canvas, has been designed to be accessed when it´s convenient for the student. Also, the program allowed me the flexibility to switch from a part-time to full-time student in my second semester.
What has been the most impactful course you have taken at UF?
It´s hard to choose just one course because each semester I had wonderful classes that impacted my view of health in our society and expanded my understanding of health and health behaviors. One course that I particularly enjoyed was PHC 6410 “Psychological, Social, & Behavioral Issues in Public Health”. It was the perfect introduction to the social and behavioral sciences´ perspectives of health behaviors and understanding the motivations behind those behaviors. Besides the many health theories and models, the greatest lesson I took away from the course was that it is essential to use the multi-tiered, social-ecological approach to understanding health issues since many personal health behaviors are affected by a variety of factors that are beyond an individual´s control.
What has been your favorite/most memorable moment in the program?
I have thoroughly enjoyed connecting with other MPH students from different personal and professional backgrounds as we have debated health topics in our courses and worked together on group projects. From my classmates, I learned about their health interests, ranging from maternal and infant health issues and domestic and interpersonal violence to diseases spread through food preparation and manipulation and the negative physical and mental effects of not getting enough sleep, which are quite different from my own interests in chronic diseases. My classmates´ sharing of their own personal and professional health experiences greatly enriched the courses and the overall learning experience.
What advice do you have to someone who is interested in this program or someone who is just starting out in this program?
For me, face-to-face communication can often be much easier than written communication and can also help to establish personal connections more easily. As an online student, I was worried about not being able to meet and interact in person with my professors and fellow classmates. To overcome that though, the courses use a variety of technological tools and assignments that provide opportunities for communication and collaboration among the students. For example, in some courses we had group debates, group projects, and group presentations. For other courses, we had weekly discussion or video posts in which we got to interact with our classmates as we discussed different health topics. Some professors also held online office hours or teleconferences to go over course topics. Also, I would study for tests via Skype with a friend that I met in my first online MPH course. So being an online student doesn’t mean that you will be studying in isolation; on the contrary, there are plenty of opportunities to reach out and connect with the professors and other students throughout the courses.