Morgan Jessie graduated in May 2022 with a BA in public health. She recently shared how she discovered public health, what her current job entails, and what excites her about the field.
What is your hometown and state?
I’m originally from Jacksonville, Illinois.
What was your degree(s)? Any minor or certificates?
I received my BA in Public Health with a certificate in sustainability.
What is your current job title, employer, and city/state?
I am the secretary at Des Moines County Public Health in Burlington, Iowa.
What made you choose a career in public health, or how did you find yourself on this career path?
I started out knowing that I wanted to be in the health field in some capacity. I realized that lab work and medicine were too technical for what I wanted to get out of my career. I then found public health and it just clicked. I realized that I wanted to be in the health field to help as many people as possible, and what better way than through population health!
How do you apply your public health education in your job?
My public health education is always applicable in my work and has been valuable in many projects already. I was able to take part in a social determinants of health survey for the county from beginning to end. This was an interesting project because I was able to use what I had learned from classes about both research methods and social determinants of health and be able to combine these in a real-life way. I also have been able to use my education through understanding how to analyze data and make sense of results from the community regarding health disparities. It has also been interesting that I use my knowledge from our theories class to understand how to educate the public and the best ways to approach getting health-related topics to be fun and accessible to all.
What does an average day look like in your job?
An average day is a lot of paperwork and spreadsheets, but every day is something different in the office. We have specific days set aside for various clinics such as immunizations, COVID-19, and STI testing. This means that I get to interact with the public every day and help to answer questions that they may have about public health topics or issues or learn from those in my office with different experiences and qualifications than myself. Some days there are also extra events or clinics and I get to go with those in my office to help promote our public health department or give free STI tests or vaccines to the public.
What excites you about your job?
The best part is that my job is always evolving. We have a small department of only around 11 people, so this means that I get to do more than would be expected as a secretarial role. As a recent graduate, I am excited to get the opportunity to learn what public health looks like both in times of crisis and in the mundane day-to-day of it all. This position, with the help of the director of the department, has presented the opportunity to meet so many people within the community and opportunities that will help me to further my career goals and learn from others. I really enjoy the fast pace of this position, and the need to adapt and coordinate efficiently so that things run smoothly.
What was your favorite public health class and why?
It is a tie between Agriculture, Food Systems, and Sustainability taught by Brandi Janssen, or Fundamentals of Emergency Preparedness and Response with Robert Niezgoda. Both classes were truly so interesting to me and helped me to find my niche within public health. They helped me to understand and focus my goals for my career path, which is to one day merge sustainability and emergency response together through my work in the public health field.
What do you value most from your time at Iowa?
I value the connections and experiences that I had both in and out of the classroom. Looking back, though there were some tough moments throughout my undergraduate career, I grew so much at Iowa. The atmosphere is like nowhere else, and the College of Public Health really is full of professors and other faculty who genuinely care about this field and want to do as much as they can to prepare students for their futures in public health.