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Arnold School of Public Health

December grad builds on history degrees with an MSPH in epidemiology to begin a career in public health

January 28, 2016 | Erin Bluvas, 

Two history degrees helped lead recent Arnold School graduate Erin Drucker to choose public health as the context for her career. An N.C. native, she focused her bachelor’s degree thesis at University of North Carolina-Charlotte on cholera in post-war Mozambique. During her master’s program at Michigan State University, Drucker minored in medical anthropology and Swahili with a grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

After graduating from both programs and then completing a five-year stint in banking, she decided to return to studying health in a more applied field. The Arnold School’s Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH) in Epidemiology program was the perfect fit. “Public health is such a diverse field, and epidemiology has opened a lot of doors for me,” Drucker says.

One of these doors has been especially significant. The December graduate recently joined Cardinal Innovations Healthcare as a Data Science Analyst. The N.C.-based Managed Care Organization oversees all of the Medicaid services for those with intellectual or developmental disabilities, mental health needs, or substance use disorders for 16 counties in N.C. They authorize services, pay claims and evaluate provider performance.

“My job includes study design for our National Accreditation Quality Improvement Activities, training company analysts, data governance, quality and process improvement, as well as the ability to conduct my own studies,” says Drucker. “For example, I am almost finished with a project on antipsychotic medication adherence and am working with the company pharmacist and chief operations officer to design and measure interventions for members with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression who have been prescribed an antipsychotic.”

The role is an excellent fit for Drucker, whose research interests center on health policy and health inequity. Her skillset and unique point of view is a culmination of her three degrees. She advises prospective students to take advantage of the time spent in school, taking classes they wouldn’t normally take and going ahead and obtaining certificates (e.g., SAS Certification) that will help them land jobs after graduation. She also recommends learning from faculty inside and outside of class. For Drucker, those critical mentors were her graduate advisor and thesis chair, Professor Angela Liese, and epidemiology’s graduate director, Clinical Assistant Professor Linda Hazlett.

“Dr. Liese is an amazing professor and advisor whose attention to detail and responsiveness has made me a better writer and helped me develop my critical thinking skills,” she says. “Dr. Hazlett saw potential in me when things were difficult, nominating me for the Millennial Health Leader Summit at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and keeping me in mind as I looked for jobs.”

The search is now over as Drucker has settled into her new role and looks forward to the projects and innovative research that this position supports. “Now that I've graduated, I'm ready to focus on my job,” she says. “Medicaid reform in North Carolina is coming and for my job, mental health research will play a huge part in how people get services and what services will be available. I love what I'm doing because for the first time it's hands-on, and I know that the work I do is meaningful.”

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