As an infection preventionist at Sharp Memorial Hospital, Shannon Mabalot wanted to enhance her level of expertise by pursuing a master’s degree in public health. Her medical director mentioned the program at San Diego State University, and Mabalot was pleased to discover the new online option.
“Besides working 40 hours a week, I have two young children at home, currently 5 and 2,” said Mabalot. “If I didn’t have the flexibility to complete assignments in the online format, I would probably never see my kids! I probably would have waited until they were much older to pursue a master’s degree.”
In fall 2017, SDSU launched the fully online 18-month Master of Public Health degree in Health Promotion and Behavioral Science through the SDSU Graduate School of Public Health, administered by SDSU Global Campus. The 51-unit program is accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), and includes 3 units of internship.
Mabalot is part of the program’s first cohort, which graduates in spring 2019. She answered a few questions about her journey through the program.
Please give us a brief history of your education and career.
I graduated from SDSU with a bachelor’s in Health Science-Public Health in 2010. Since then my career path has brought me to “infection prevention.” It’s a multi-faceted career that includes epidemiological surveillance and reporting, educating staff, and recommending best practices to various areas of the hospital with intention of reducing the spread of healthcare associated infections.
What area of public health are you most interested in and why?
I’m truly interested in all aspects of public health! Right now, I work in the acute hospital setting, so I feel like we see a concentrated amount of various public health issues because people who are very sick are the ones that go to the hospital. By working in this setting, I feel like I’m exposed to many different aspects of public health: emerging infectious disease, antibiotic resistance, communicable disease, communication with federal and local governments, laws and policies/regulations, and more. If I were to pick a single facet of public health to specialize in, it would probably be epidemiology. I enjoy working with people, but I also like working with numbers and data and the microbiology aspect of it all.
What do you think are the key strengths of SDSU’s Master of Public Health Online program?
The instructors are very organized. Lectures are easy to follow. Course schedules and assignment requirements are available in plain sight. The students in my cohort come from varying educational and vocational backgrounds, so it makes learning a lot more interesting when you have different perspectives.
Can you speak to the caliber of the instructors and their accessibility?
All the instructors thus far have been really great. They are all intelligent, passionate individuals, and it shows in the lectures, organization of the course, and responses to the class. If I have any questions, I usually get a response back within a few hours or that same day. In the past few months I’ve had the misfortune of having both of my children admitted to the hospital (at different times and for different reasons). I reached out to my instructors and they have been very understanding and supportive and have helped determine which assignment deadlines can be extended. I’m thankful for their support!
How feasible was it to take the program while working full time?
It is definitely challenging squeezing in a master’s degree course-load while working full-time. Every week, I probably spend between 4–8 hours on course work. Some weeks I’m able to get readings and assignments completed earlier on, and some weeks the work accumulates to the end of the week. At that point, you just need to seclude yourself and get the work done! I find that the instructors are very organized. Having the class schedule/syllabus available from early on helps me plan the workload of the week and manage my time.
Would you recommend the program to others?
I’d definitely recommend the program to others. If you’re a self-starter and enjoy working in the online format, then this is a great program. I know some people learn better in the live classroom environment, and if that is the case, it might not be the best format for you. If pursuing an MPH is one of your educational goals, you also happen to work full-time (including having a full-time family), and you are up for something that challenges how far you can mentally stretch yourself — an online MPH at SDSU is the program for you!
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I was never really good at answering this question. I didn’t give it much thought until high school where I was really interested in media production. After my semester as a “Television, Film, and Media Production” major at SDSU, I decided I was going to switch things up and pursue something a little more versatile. I learned about public health, and taking the courses just opened up a world of awe for me. I feel like certain doors open for you along the way, and I never could have “dreamed” to be in the career I am now, but I sure am glad I fell into it. Will other opportunities present themselves that lead me down a completely different career path in public health? It’s possible. I do know the public health path is one I want to stay on.
Anything you’d like to add?
One of the things that is equally interesting and at times challenging during this program are the group projects and assignments. It’s interesting to see our personalities emerge during the assignments; seeing which people take leadership roles, creative roles, supportive roles, and everything in between. I really enjoy working in groups and developing relationships with my classmates because at the end of the day we are all in this together and supporting each other, which speaks to the “community” of public health in general.
To learn more about the program, please visit neverstoplearning.net/mph.