How I Made My Epidemiology Practicum Work

By: Alessandra Kovac – 2nd year – Epidemiology


As an Epidemiology MPH student, I was looking to gain experience in data analysis with my practicum and explore my interest in maternal and child health.  I found my practicum through the epidemiology listserv over winter break of my first year. Department ADAPs are usually good at emailing out practicum, job, and thesis opportunities as soon as they get them.  However, if you are interested in something, there are definitely others looking too so be sure to respond quickly! I spent my summer working as a Data Analyst for Healthy Beginnings, an early learning program in Atlanta that aims to ensure children are healthy, developing on track, and thriving socially and emotionally.  I knew this sounded like the perfect opportunity so I made sure to email the point of contact with my resume as soon as I read the email.  Shortly after, we set up an interview and by mid-January, I had my practicum secured and was on my way to finalize the necessary paperwork.

Since I had secured my practicum early and would be staying in Atlanta, I offered to “get started” during my spring semester by attending the team meetings. This was actually super helpful and I was able to get exposed to the work environment earlier than most.  Meeting the team in March made for a quick transition into my position and I already knew what was expected of me.  Also, Healthy Beginnings is a collaboration with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the United Way so it was great to get exposure to different organizations – I even got to work side by side with big names at these places!

A major downside of my practicum was it was an unpaid position.  However, that was made clear from the start (this can be awkward to ask about but make sure to!) and my boss was understanding that I would need to work another paying job. Luckily my REAL position from the school year offered me a summer position and I ended up working around 20 hours per week at each job. In addition, my practicum hours were unpredictable – some weeks I needed to go into the learning centers for all 20 hours and other weeks I had little work which I could do anywhere.   Since I usually like a set schedule, I thought I wouldn’t like the ever-changing hours. However, the flexibility gave me time to work on my thesis and start browsing jobs for my second year and post-graduation!

Overall, my practicum was a great opportunity to put my Epidemiology skills to work in a real-world setting.  I strengthened my data analysis skills and used SAS on a real-world dataset to clean, analyze, and visualize child health data. The best part: my summer experience culminated into a published Annual Report that is dispersed to funders and major stakeholders.  Having a tangible report to show others and cite on my resume has been helpful in my continued job hunt.

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