Student Spotlight: Emily Quach, MPH
Emily, a student in MCPHS's Master of Public Health program, offers advice for students looking to take on professional opportunities in the healthcare industry.
What do Tufts Medical Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute all have in common? Those familiar with the healthcare industry know that all four of these Boston-area institutions sit at the forefront of modern medical instruction, compassionate patient care, and ground-breaking research. However, these institutions also share one lesser-known quality: Emily Quach, a soon-to-be graduate of the MCPHS Master of Public Health program, has held positions at all four.
Emily’s impressive resume isn’t the result of a stroke of luck — rather, her accomplishments exist as a byproduct of seven years of hard work, both inside and outside of the classroom. Whether it’s networking at an event, asking mentors for advice, advancing her education, or offering her time through volunteering or internships, Emily constantly seeks out opportunities to build an influential and fulfilling career in the field of public health. Her current status as both an MPH candidate and Dana-Farber research assistant is just one example of her ongoing, determined mission.
“The public health program at MCPHS fits my goals because it offers hybrid learning,” says Emily. “Work during the day? There are classes at night. Inconsistent work schedule? There are online courses. The program is incredibly flexible and really accommodates working professionals or those who want to complete it full-time or part-time.”
As she nears graduation and looks towards her next step (earning her Doctor of Health Science), Emily hopes to share her job hunting and networking wisdom with students looking to jumpstart their professional careers. Her first piece of advice? Start small, and never stop asking questions.
“Networking and community building can be intimidating at first, but start small,” says Emily. “My supervisor is one of my greatest connections because he genuinely cares about my academic and career growth — don’t be afraid to reach out to your own supervisor for advice. And if you’re a student, another amazing resource available to you is your advisor, which in my case was actually the MPH Program Director, Dr. Carly Levy.”
In this interview, Emily offers more advice for students looking to take on professional opportunities in the healthcare industry.
Why did you choose to pursue your Master of Public Health at MCPHS?
When it came to graduate programs, I wanted a program with a smaller class size so that I would be able to truly engage with my peers and professors online and offline. This enables me to find a balance between working in the field and being in graduate school.
In what ways has your time in our public health program further prepared you for a real-world career in the field of healthcare?
The way the classes were taught never made you feel as though you had to memorize anything. Instead, we sought to understand current events in regards to health policy in a way that tied into our studies. We learned how to write grant proposals, structure research designs, write on a scholarly level, and network with our peers. I feel like everything I’ve learned was applicable to my career and daily life.
Also, the professors are incredibly helpful and truly care about your growth. Through the guidance of Dr. Levy, I was able to select electives that have helped me reach my career aspirations.
Tell us about your experiences working at Boston Children’s Hospital. What were your responsibilities?
I worked at Boston Children’s Hospital as part of my practice experience for the MPH program. I was responsible for creating a database, which was populated with survey data that I collected for the senior pediatric resident. The data was related to the resident’s Caring for Dying Patients curriculum, which was created to address a gap in education and communications between providers and their patients/families of patients who are nearing the end of their life. I was involved in the data collection, coded and managed all of the data, and prepped it for statistical analysis.
Now, working at Dana Farber, what does your day-to-day look like? What do you enjoy most about your job?
I was able to start working at Dana-Farber right around the time I started my MPH — which worked perfectly. I managed two survey studies on parent and patient perspectives on genomic data and precision medicine. My responsibilities included coordinating the multi-step surveys among all nationwide participating institutions (as well as our own), coding the surveys, and tracking patients’ disease status. Now, I work on qualitative research, conducting and coding interviews among pediatric oncology providers to understand the role of moral distress in the clinical setting.
What I enjoy most about my job is how diverse it is. I am able to apply the principles of quantitative and qualitative research from school into my work. My supervisor, Dr. Jonathan Marron, MD, MPH, has been a wonderful mentor and does his best to ensure that I am able to apply concepts I have learned in school to our work.
What steps or actions did you take to best position yourself to secure competitive job opportunities?
It can be hard to find the right position for you, career-wise. Before finding my position at Dana-Farber, I experienced difficulty transitioning from working as a medical technician to more research-based roles.
My advice for students is to reach out to teams, labs, or organizations and express and interest in volunteering. I know it sounds difficult, but I truly wanted to gain insight, so I volunteered for 5 hours a week on top of my full-time hours at the hospital to gain experience. When it was time to interview at Dana-Farber, I mentioned how although I lack traditional work experience, I displayed personal initiative in getting into the field. I also discussed how I was starting my master’s in public health. Boston can be a competitive city, but hard work will always pay off!
Regarding networking and community building, what advice do you have for students just starting out?
Start small. I know many of us start out with great ambitions, but a small step can go a long way. I was so afraid of “falling behind,” but everyone grows and makes an impact at their own pace, and this program is incredibly supportive of all its students.
Building a community comes once you’ve networked a bit and kept in touch with classmates or colleges. Little things, like putting together a club with your classmates to raise awareness, definitely count.
The Master of Public Health program, offered on the Boston campus and online, covers the five core disciplines of public health, including biostatistics, epidemiology, environmental health science, health policy and management, and social and behavioral sciences.