Emily Stephenson

Masters in Public Health

emily170I am originally from Lexington, Kentucky, a mid-sized city in the Southeast United States. I attended Centre College, a small liberal arts college for my undergraduate degree (graduating in May of 2015). While at Centre I studied a wide range of subjects, and although my final degree is in French, I was able to complete minors in Biology and Chemistry and conduct independent genetics research for 3 years. During my third year, I spent a semester abroad in Strasbourg, France, and subsequently returned to Strasbourg after my semester’s stay to complete an internship at the IGBMC, an international biomedical institute.

After spending a summer researching at an international research center in France, I realized how valuable an international academic setting could be. I knew that I wanted to study public health for my masters, and as I researched different universities for my studies, the University of Sheffield stood out for its international reputation and diverse student body. At ScHARR I knew I would be challenged both by the content and my peers, learning from both my experienced lecturers and from my course mates’ diverse experiences.

Thus far, I have really enjoyed the opportunity to read around the subject and tailor topics to my personal interests. For instance, in Research Methods we are able to use the skills we learn in tutorials to create our own research proposal on a topic that interests us. This is the same for many of my other modules, and I’ve found it really has expanded my critical thinking skills as well as my ability to apply knowledge acquired in the classroom to the real world.

The MPH course has many valuable aspects, but in my opinion the structure of the course is one of its best features. During the first semester all students are trained on basic research methods, epidemiology, key issues of global health and other broad subjects, but then during the second semester, we are able to select optional modules that allow us to tailor our course to our particular interests and career plans. This allows each MPH student to have a personally designed course that is both interesting and beneficial to his or her future career.

The teaching methods at the University of Sheffield are quite different than what I was used to, coming from a small liberal arts college. The lectures are quite large, but many of these are supplemented with smaller group “tutorials” that resemble the interactive classes to which I am accustomed. Overall, I find Sheffield is quite a bit more independent, but as a masters student I am glad I have more responsibility and freedom to study in the ways that I see fit. Also, if you need extra help on any particular subject, there are a variety of campus services, as well as your peers and professors to give you the support you need.

A University of Sheffield education is special in that it allows students to not only grow as individuals, developing study skills and expanding their academic horizons, but it also allows students to be part of a bigger network or researchers and academics who are making significant impacts on their fields.

One of the best things about life at the University of Sheffield is all of the activities, societies and events that happen everyday. No matter what your interest is, there is something out there for you. For me, this includes the public health and postgraduate society, as well as talks given by guest lecturers from around the world on a variety of subjects.

After completing my MPH, I plan to gain more practical experience in the field of public health by working for some sort of health service organization for one year. Ideally, I would like to work in an underserved population within the United States, allowing me to apply for medical school during this period. This work could potentially be at the US CDC, a non-profit health clinic or a health advocacy/education organization. During this period of work, I utilize the skills I acquired during my time in Sheffield to make a direct impact on real populations. After this year of fieldwork, I would like to matriculate into medical school in the United States, either to earn my Doctorate of Medicine or a MD/PhD degree in epidemiology.

Taking the leap and deciding to make Sheffield your home for your future studies can be a bit scary. As an American student in the same situation last year, I know I was hesitant to commit to such a big university in a place I had never been, but the beauty of the University of Sheffield is in how it doesn’t feel so big after all. It has the advantages of a large research university, with highly trained staff and a diverse student body, but it still retains the feel of a small community where students are more than just a number. So my advice to prospectie students would be to take the leap and see why so many students love this University.