Environmental Health Sciences (EHS), M.P.H. ’19
Health and Medical Specialist, New York City Emergency Management Department
What is your current job?
I work for NYC Emergency Management (NYCEM) in the Health and Medical unit. NYCEM is the agency responsible for coordinating citywide emergency planning and response for all types and scales of emergencies in NYC. I started with the agency in January of 2020 and was very quickly engaged in supporting the COVID-19 response.
Describe your work and why you find it rewarding/challenging?
NYCEM coordinates planning and response for a variety of hazards, anything from heat and coastal storms to power disruptions. My role is to support the critical health and medical infrastructure in preparing for and mitigating the impacts of an emergency. Much of this role involves partnership-building and information-sharing, so it is incredibly rewarding when we can support a health care partner by connecting them to resources during an ongoing emergency. While the COVID-19 response was a challenging way to begin my role with NYCEM, it was an opportunity to engage with many of the health and medical partners in the City and to put some of the NYC plans into practice. Additionally, we had to adapt the responses to seasonal hazards (i.e., heat, coastal storms, winter storms) and other emergencies to COVID-19, which added additional complexity.
How did YSPH prepare you for your current work?
At YSPH, I learned how to take complex public health concepts and to present the essential components for a variety of audiences. This skill has been especially helpful in communicating clearly and accurately within my agency and with citywide partners for emergency scenarios where decisions are made that ultimately impact the health and safety of New Yorkers. My ability to synthesize information and to evaluate sources of information was improved at YSPH, while working at NYCEM has required me to do the same while working in an often fast-paced environment and where information changes rapidly during an incident.
Do you have a favorite YSPH experience you can share?
There were several opportunities at YSPH to put my education into practice, but my experience with the practicum course would probably be my favorite. It was an incredible opportunity to work with an interdisciplinary group of students and directly with a community to assess public health impacts. There were so many concepts that I had covered previously in coursework, such as community health surveys and air monitoring, that my team was able to develop and then implement over the course of a semester. I learned so much from my fellow students, faculty advisors, and the community members we met to develop the project that I would not necessarily have learned from coursework alone.
What advice do you have for current/future students?
I would encourage YSPH students to engage with New Haven outside of academics if possible. Whether this is through work, volunteering or recreation, finding that balance with your studies is essential. I was able to work as a classroom assistant in an elementary school assisting the art teacher with preparing classroom supplies and the students during lessons. This job was certainly challenging in its own way, but it was a much needed break from my public health studies and it was incredible to work with the dedicated teachers and the kids in New Haven Public Schools. Plus, I learned a little about art, too.
Were there any faculty/staff mentors who influenced your YSPH experience?
I am grateful to Dr. Catherine Yeckel as my thesis advisor and for her mentorship while I continued the research from my summer internship through to publication. Not only is she an engaging professor in her lectures and coursework, but she was very supportive in discussing my academic and professional goals. Dr. Robert Dubrow and the Yale Center for Climate Change and Health really influenced my YSPH experience and my interest in climate change, emergencies and health impacts. The opportunity to focus on climate change and public health was one of the reasons I chose to attend YSPH.