Alumni Highlight – Kelli Gruber, MPH (Epidemiology, 2014)
Hometown: York, NE
Current Career Position: I recently returned from Colorado, where I completed two years with the Colorado state health department as a CSTE Applied Epidemiology Fellow. Now I am with the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition (GSCN) as a Research Associate. The collaborative work environment at GSCN allows me to apply the epidemiology and biostatistics knowledge and skills I acquired during my training at UNMC to both community-focused work and research efforts. The best aspects of my current job are using and building on my foundation of data management, analysis and epidemiology skills and learning from the other accomplished public health professionals. In previous jobs, I analyzed quantitative data that had already been collected and cleaned. I described disease prevalence and health disparities through fact sheets and reports. Conversely, in my short time at the Center, my role has been more hands on and I have been involved with primary data collection, involving surveys and interviews with community members, to support program evaluation. I enjoy having an active role in supporting programs that are changing communities for the better by improving access to fresh fruits and vegetables, reducing food insecurity and preventing childhood obesity.
What you value most about your time at COPH?: I value the faculty and staff mentorship, as well as, graduate assistantship opportunities I had through the College of Public Health. Being able to directly apply skills that I was learning in the classroom to real public health data and projects was invaluable. I also appreciated collaborating with the community of students in masters and doctoral programs.
Advice for current students: Start preparing for the job you want to have in the future while you’re still a student. There are so many opportunities that you as a student can take advantage of, making you more competitive for jobs after graduation. It sounds cliché, but I found that reading the required skills section of job announcements was helpful because I made sure to learn SAS and some data management skills as a MPH student. It also helped me get an idea of where, and what type of public health organization I wanted to work for in the future. I would also recommend getting to know other students and the faculty early-on. These connections can help you find opportunities to get involved in like volunteering in the community or research. There are a lot of options from local to global public health so everyone should be able to find something they’re passionate about. The out-of-classroom work helps narrow your career interests and focus your plan of study so you can smoothly transition from student to public health professional after graduation. And lastly, have fun!