Jill Pace

First year DrPH Candidate in Population and Family Health

I want to be the bridge between public health research and practice. For me, that means incorporating education into career development and taking that combination into the field. When I was looking at doctoral programs, the Mailman School’s DrPH in Population and Family Health was one of the few that would allow me to work full-time while building on what I had already learned in my MPH.

Because the Population and Family Health DrPH program is geared towards people who have work experience, it’s more flexible than other degrees. I could never be an effective public health practitioner without work experience. It’s good to have a solid foundation in theory, but I need to see the theory in action. That drove me to apply for a Presidential Management Fellowship after earning my MPH, allowing me to join the National Institutes of Health for two years. After the fellowship ended, I stayed on with the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development for another year. But that wasn’t enough. I wanted to go deeper into the field and approach health from different angles.

There is a strong focus on distance learning and field practice in the DrPH program. A lot of people work in other countries while getting their degree. The program resonates with me because we get the theory behind the action while also learning program leadership and implementation. I’m working with ICAP at Columbia University full-time now, and I get to see what I learn in class reflected in my role.

Having work experience changes the way I study. I see issues from a more practical and applied perspective. I draw on one to inform the other. I’m building on my knowledge and experience to become that bridge between research and practice. There’s only so much you can get from the classroom. The rest you have to live for yourself.

I’m thinking of public health in a broader, global sense now. I’m seeing how I fit into the public’s health while maintaining my convictions on issues that demand the most attention. I want to use my degree and experiences to connect programs in the field to the new developments coming out of academia. Because, if the groups enacting change can’t understand the theory, what are we doing all this research for?