Sara Schubert, MPH ’18, CPH found the flexibility of an online program enabled her to successfully make the leap from Captain in the Army to Health Scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She is an alumnus of the GeoHealth concentration in the Master of Public Health Online Program and has earned her Certification in Public Health. She spoke with the department’s Public Health Career Services team.
What inspires you about your work?
It has always been a goal of mine to work for the CDC, I am so blessed to have the opportunity to work with premiere public health experts and scientists.
How did you set out to achieve your career goals?
I was serving as an active duty army officer while completing my degree, and with my degree I was able to become a preventive medicine officer and focus on health and sanitation. After a year of doing this work, I decided to transition off of active duty. I recently started a new position at the CDC in Atlanta, and am continuing my preventive medicine role with the Army reserves.
What was a particularly memorable experience?
[During my degree program] I was privileged to travel with some of my Master of Public Health cohort to Panama and work inside a clinic, experiencing some field work first-hand.
What advice do you have for current students?
The job search can easily take six months, don’t wait to start applying! Especially for government jobs, it is a long process. If you have a chance to join a professional organization, it can really help with networking outside of typical school channels. When I decided to switch from the Army to Public Health, I joined the American Public Health Association and attended their annual meeting to really immerse myself in the world of public health professionals.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Right now, my entire office is working virtually, so my typical day includes a lot of emails and zoom calls. I am currently focused on technical and administrative support of CDC laboratory committees and identifying trends and gaps in data submitted by laboratory researchers and scientists.
My entire office and the majority of the CDC has been working from home since March. Since having started this position I have gone into the office only once to pick up some telework equipment. Learning a new position completely virtually has been a significant challenge. Without the in-person interactions with supervisors and coworkers, it can be difficult to succeed at some of the small things that would be easier with the interpersonal interaction. Thankfully it is possible to develop relationships online and there are lots of tools out there to help team building and productivity despite working virtually.
Since I am new to my position I have been able to provide a fresh set of eyes on some of our processes and data and my team has found that really helpful to the quality of our work.
While my job is within the CDC, a lot of the skills I use every day are not specific to public health. I have been doing a lot of on the job learning of technical solutions that are great for data visualization and data input. There is also a steep learning curve for me of all the laboratory and CDC jargon and acronyms – sometimes it becomes an entirely different language!
What have you learned through your work?
It is not a weakness to ask for help. This can be a difficult lesson to learn, especially in my past role as a Captain in the Army. It was difficult to portray myself as anything other than a strong, confident woman who has everything under control. But I decided it is detrimental to my career to not use every tool and resource available.
What do you see for your future?
Personally, I hope my career takes several more twists and turns and continues to grow, especially as the United States hopefully puts more emphasis on public health going forward.
I love working at the CDC and look forward to seeing what other areas of the agency are focused on and finding new ways to grow and develop new skills and my career. I have always been passionate about the intersection of geography and health and will be looking for ways to incorporate that into my future career path. The CDC offers a large number of ways to work outside your current position including domestic and international “deployments.” I am looking forward to getting some field time and hands-on public health experience to mix in with my desk job.
Learn more about the Master of Public Health online program at USC.