Rajbir S. Sooch earns his Master of Public Health degree with a concentration in health services and policy.
Why did you choose to pursue your degree?
Working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, including helping residents of my home county register for vaccination appointments, has helped me understand the importance and differential impact of health policy decisions on individual lives. Designing and implementing policies that apply equally to diverse communities is no easy task. I came to USC specifically to study public health policy so that I may one day contribute to the passage of policy measures that are as inclusive and equitable as possible.
What’s one of your favorite memories from your program?
One treasured memory, and a lesson I will never forget, involves a group activity we completed in Dr. Wipfli’s PM 564 Public Health Leadership and Management class. The activity involved splitting the class up into different groups who were all tasked with solving a mystery scenario using a unique set of clues. We were given free rein to communicate with other groups, and we were told that the task would not be finished until all groups came up with the correct answer. It took the entire class period for every group to eventually deliver the correct answer using their specific clues, yet in the end we were told that we had failed the assignment. Every group was so focused on being the first to answer the question that we disregarded our ability to share information with each other. If all the groups had instead shared their clues with each other at the beginning of the class, we would have reached the correct answer within a couple of minutes. The lesson learned from this exercise applies to our future careers in public health and beyond. When working on solving a collective problem, we should put aside our individual pride and competitiveness. More often than not, we should share our resources and intelligence in the spirit of genuine collaboration.
What will you miss most and why?
One of the great things about being in an online program is the ability to collaborate with other professionals who are still living and working in their natural environments. Rather than being sequestered in a school together, every Zoom session and discussion post was an opportunity to see how the concepts we learned in class succeed and fail in the real world.
What are you doing after you graduate?
After graduation I will be following my lifelong dream of pursuing a career as a physician. I am honored to have been offered admission at Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences (KCUMB), where I will begin working on my medical degree in Fall 2022. This represents an important crossroads for me, since I will be bringing the skills and knowledge gained from this MPH program with me to medical school. I hope to continue pursuing public health enrichment opportunities throughout my tenure as a medical student and beyond. In fact, KCUMB offers opportunities for students to pursue global health improvement opportunities abroad through medical missions trips to nations such as Guatemala and Kenya.
What do you look forward to in your career path?
One of the first things I learned in this MPH program is the difference between the characteristic approaches of medicine and public health. Medicine tends to focus on treating the individual patient, while public health endeavors to identify and limit the impact of interpersonal causes of disease. As a future physician and public health professional, I hope to combine these two approaches in order to better serve the communities I will live and work among. For example, I will use my platform as a physician to bring the specific health needs of my community to the attention of those with the power to change the direction of health policy. I will also use my public health expertise to shape these policies so that they improve the health of as many diverse communities as possible.
What advice do you have for future grads?
When choosing a concentration, follow your passions. Public health is a particularly broad and interconnected field, so you will absolutely be able to find a way to fit your personal interests into your future career as a public health professional.