Photo: Kurt Conklin, second from right, interviews MPH graduates Monica Hanna, Adedotun Osho and Sarah Bonilla.
As a public health officer in Irvington, New Jersey, Chris Hellwig keeps his finger on the pulse of the city for outbreaks of disease and signs of lead paint in older homes. It’s the type of work being performed by graduates of the Master of Public Health program offered at Montclair State University, who, like Hellwig, have used their degrees to make a positive impact in New Jersey and beyond.
In celebration of 10 years, the Master of Public Health program recently invited alumni back to campus to talk about their work making communities healthier and safer. The conversations were recorded by media students for a special edition of Carpe Diem, the University’s award-winning magazine show, which airs on Comcast and Cablevision in northern New Jersey.
Hosted by Kurt Conklin, instructional specialist in the Department of Public Health, the guests shared their experiences on important public health issues and concerns, including immunizations, lead in homes and water, nicotine and tobacco treatment, vaping, women’s health and contraception, and language barriers in accessing health care.
“Public health impacts you in every way possible,” says Monica Hanna ’13, community educator for RWJ Barnabas Institute for Prevention and Recovery.
“It’s all around you. It’s in your life. And sometimes you don’t even realize that,” she says. “The structure of the public health courses really prepared me to connect what I learned to what I do.”
The Master of Public Health program provides professionals with the breadth of skills to respond to public health crises, to recognize and eliminate health disparities and to enhance communities’ abilities to address public health needs.
“Everyone deserves a dignified way of living, and public health does that,” says Sarah Bonilla ’14, program manager for the Center of Excellence for Latino Health at Clara Maass Medical Center. “And honestly, it’s a true passion. Going into this work, you need to have conviction with what you do.”
Among the graduates, Kim Manderano ’19, inside sales consultant in women’s health care for Bayer Pharmaceuticals, says learning about different opportunities in public health was extremely useful in her work to ensure that her clients have access to contraceptives and to women’s health care.
“Because I was already working in public health, I knew exactly what I wanted,” says Adedotun Osho ’18, registered environmental health and safety specialist and lead risk assessor for the Plainfield Health Department. His classes were full of students who brought a variety of different perspectives to their coursework. “I loved my experience here.”
“It takes a deep understanding of what the issues are and whether the issues within your local community are at a larger level, state level or regional level,” says Hellwig, who earned his MPH in 2011. “It really does take a village to make sure that everyone has the ability to live the healthiest life and to make a connection between systemic things and individual behaviors.”
As moderator Conklin concluded: “Public health puts science into service, to assure a healthier, safer and more just society.”
Story by Staff Writer Marilyn Lehren