Student Highlight – Jill Hughes is an MPH student studying Environmental, Occupational and Agricultural Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) College of Public Health (COPH). Originally from Springview, a rural community in north central Nebraska, Jill chose to return to Nebraska upon completing her undergraduate degree at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, New Mexico, to further her education.
After studying and conducting research in forensic biology at the undergraduate level, Jill wanted to find a way to marry her skills from her forensic background to disease investigation. With recent advances in the field of forensic science, a newer area of forensic epidemiology has come to the forefront as a method of investigating weaponized toxins and diseases, poisonings, and bioterrorism. The environmental health curriculum and elective courses in emergency management through the COPH have provided Jill with a broad range of knowledge to prepare her as a member of an investigative team, and as a responder to multiple forms of health threats.
Hughes’ career and research interests involve working with, and constructing universal protocols for, multi-department response teams to biochemical incidents and investigations. Her first year at the COPH has allowed her the opportunity to work with one of these agencies, as a work study student with the Nebraska Department of Public Health Lab. She has gained knowledge in handling various types of samples, learning and understanding protocol, and departmental roles and responsibilities. In addition, she has gained great knowledge and experience in the field as a volunteer and board member of the Do juSTIce program, collecting STD/STI data from the Douglas County Department of Corrections and assisting with treatment of the inmates.
Jill’s favorite aspect of UNMC is the continued and varied volunteer efforts in the local community and worldwide. She feels that her volunteer work, paired with the resources the university offers and the overwhelming support from her instructors, career advisor, and personal academic advisor, will fully prepare her for a career in the public health field upon her graduation.