With a top-25 ranking in the U.S. News and World Report’s list of public health programs at public schools, Georgia State’s School of Public Health is known across the country and world for providing a top-tier educational experience for its enrolled students. Engaged faculty, a vibrant public health community and over $17.8 million in sponsored funding for the 2023 Fiscal Year give students like Ryan Fisher the opportunity to reach their full potential.
Fisher, a current student in the Online Master’s in Public Health - Health Promotion and Behavior Concentration program, works for the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a health analyst. He wanted to elevate his education and professional standing with a master’s degree, ultimately choosing Georgia State for its affordability and curriculum setup.
“Being a Georgia resident, you can go to Georgia State and pay tuition and also manage the tuition costs a lot more feasibly than other programs,” Fisher said. “I was looking at competitive online programs as well, but being an out-of-state student and not receiving scholarships, it made it a little intimidating. You have to be strategic not only with cost but also the credits.
“The MPH program at Georgia State allows you to graduate with a reasonable amount of credits, whereas other programs require double the amount of credits.”
As he matriculated through the program, Fisher had to complete an applied practice experience (APE), a 240-hour public health equivalent to an internship where students can apply public health academic theory and acquired skills from their concentration to community-based research and service in a practice setting. He was already employed by the CDC but received approval to complete his APE with a different division of the organization this summer.
Fisher completed his APE with the Office of Policy, Planning, Partnerships and Communications (O3PC) within the CDC’s Division of HIV Prevention. His day-to-day job with the CDC falls under the global division of HIV, but his APE allowed him to work with the domestic division and see a research interest in a different light.
“(HIV) affects the LGBTQ community a lot,” Fisher said. “Learning about it and seeing how it has affected the community in previous decades to kind of where we are now and headed with HIV prevention and eliminating stigma is an interest to me.”
During the APE, Fisher developed a standard operating procedure (SOP) for the O3PC as the CDC undergoes a website update. The CDC is in the process of a Clean Slate initiative, a relaunching of optimized content on its website. Fisher was able to read the entire initiative and develop an SOP that designated roles and responsibilities, laid out terms and definitions, created a timeline of events before completion and provided content examples to help determine which items should continue onto the new site and which ones should be scrapped.
“I was proud of it because it was practical,” Fisher said. “It was a two-for-one for me – I was able to understand what the office does and who they are because I had to really look at their content. I was better able to understand the mission and purpose while learning about health messaging and what key health messages people want to get.”
While Fisher’s SOP was focused on the new website launch at the office level, he also created a social media strategy for the Division of HIV Prevention. He studied the division’s strategic plan and content and built a document for the division to execute a strategy of investment areas, focus areas and topics to cover.
“I think with a lot of strategic plans that come from divisions, they are multi-year and pretty broad,” Fisher said. “This one was from 2022 to 2025; there were a lot of big broad ideas in it. I was able to learn about the social media platforms they use, what content they had already put out and created a timeline from August to February of next year, promoting each part of the strategy plan. This way you can truncate it and compartmentalize it into ways that are digestible to the public.”
Additionally, Fisher was able to lean on coursework integrations to deal with the organizational stresses that come with a more than 10,800-person organization.
“The group project aspect of the MPH program helped me through the APE,” he said. “Being a part-time virtual student you kind of miss the person-to-person interaction. The MPH program at Georgia State does a good job in the different classes of putting you in a group to communicate and interact with one another like you would in an in-person setting. It teaches you time management; it teaches you designating responsibilities.”
With Fisher set to graduate after the fall semester, he wants to shift to community-based interaction and more hands-on, person-to-person work around decreasing stigma. He thinks other students can have similar experiences when it comes to picking a program that sets them up for success.
“I would encourage more students who are thinking about online MPH programs to look at Georgia State because it does allow a very flexible and engaging environment,” he said. “Some people might think it’s a lot of work, but at the end of the day, it is and it’s do-able, especially if it aligns with your career interests.
“I know I want to be in public health for a while at CDC, and I wanted to improve myself professionally; Georgia State allowed me to do that.
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