Alumni Highlight – Derry Stover
Hometown: Kearney, NE
Year graduated from our program: 2010
Degree and concentration: MPH–Environmental and Occupational Health
Current career position: I serve as an epidemiologist and program manager for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services’ Occupational Safety and Health Surveillance Program. I work to improve the health and safety of Nebraska’s workforce through something we call “Putting Data to Work,” which involves using occupational health and safety data to track trends of injuries and illnesses and to develop recommendations and public health interventions.
My MPH capstone experience is what led to my employment with the state health department, first as an environmental health analyst. When I was presented the opportunity to manage a newly funded occupational health program in 2012, I was eager to take the challenge. I quickly learned that building a new public health program is hard but rewarding work. I was also surprised to learn that there are still large gaps in our understanding of the health and safety of workers in the United States and in Nebraska. I take pride in closing these gaps by applying a broad range of public health skills I gained through my MPH coursework.
What I love about my job is that it involves in all aspects of public health. On an average day, I might investigate an occupational poisoning case, analyze occupational injury data, and work on designing an educational brochure. My work also allows me to collaborate with public health stakeholders in local health departments, non-profit organizations, and federal agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
What do you value most about your time in our program: The opportunity to learn from and work with professors and instructors with such extensive public health knowledge and experience, of which many are national leaders in public health. They were always happy to make time to meet with me one-on-one and address all of my budding public health questions. Building these relationships was important, and I still work with College of Public Health staff and now consider them my colleagues.
Advice for current students: Keep an open mind and become as well-rounded a student as possible. Public health is so interconnected that most careers require skills in all public health disciplines. So get outside your comfort zone and take elective courses that are not in your specific area of study. Also, broaden your skill set by taking advantage of the many free trainings, workshops, and regional and national conferences that you have the opportunity to attend while at the COPH.