Alumni Highlight: Kaeli Samson, MA, MPH (Biostatistics, 2016)
Hometown: Omaha, NE
Current career position: I work as a Statistician in the Department of Biostatistics in the UNMC College of Public Health. In this position I work with research groups across campus, and sometimes across Nebraska, to help with their data analysis and interpretation. This job allows me to use and expand the statistics, research, and SAS skills I learned in my program [Master of Public Health (MPH) – Biostatistics Concentration ], plus I get exposed to many different areas of research, from epilepsy to pediatric infectious diseases in Nigeria. I also spend some of my time continuing to work for the Nebraska Coalition for Patient Safety (NCPS), a non-profit Patient Safety Organization for which I worked as a graduate assistant during my MPH program. In my role at NCPS, I help with data management of adverse events that happen in hospitals throughout the region, and identify trends to inform the educational materials we send out to members. One huge benefit of working for the UNMC College of Public Health is receiving tuition remission, an employee benefit which waives a portion or all of tuition cost. I am currently taking advantage of that by working on my certificate in Geographic Information Science (GIS) at UNO.
The most valued thing about my MPH program: I really value the variety of opportunities I was exposed to while I was a student at the UNMC College of Public Health. These opportunities included being trained in the basics of GIS (i.e. mapping software) to help train others during a spring break training program, working for a small non-profit and learning about the field of patient safety, learning about cancer registries and a foreign health system first-hand in Bulgaria, and volunteering for a research group where I was able to gain valuable experience by data-cleaning some of the messiest datasets I have ever seen. My experiences enriched and helped solidify what I had learned in the classroom.
Advice for current students: As I reflect on my time as a student, I think of this truism: What you get out of it depends on what you put into it. You will be inundated with opportunities, typically in the form of one of the hundreds of emails you receive, or a professor, mentor, or friend mentioning something in passing, and because they are so pervasive, it can be easy to ignore them. You’re busy with classes, work, and other responsibilities, and it can be hard to imagine adding more to your load. But for me, taking the initiative to get involved in some of these opportunities led to some of the most amazing experiences I had in this program. When I think back on the best opportunities I had at the COPH, most stemmed from a random email looking for volunteers or applicants – so be sure to read what’s in your inbox and respond early to those that interest you! And I’ll end with my favorite piece of advice for students: Get to know Brenda Nickol, Director of Career Services, early and meet with her often – she is such a great resource!