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Arnold School of Public Health


Master of public health (HSPM) graduate lands position with Midlands Orthopaedics and Neurosurgery

December 12, 2018 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu 

Leigh Robertson called Florida home until she moved to South Carolina in 2012 to attend Furman University. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Earth and environmental sciences, she turned her focus toward entering the healthcare field.

She spent the year after her 2016 graduation helping launch a brand new OB-GYN practice in Greenville, where she gained experience with establishing business practices and building workflows and protocols. Meanwhile, she researched public health graduate programs and quickly zeroed in on USC.

“The Arnold School of Public Health was the most well established and reputable program in the state,” Robertson says. “After I spoke with Dr. Kelli Kenison about the opportunities and structure of the master of public health (MPH) in health services policy and management (HSPM) program, I decided to attend USC. I felt comfortable knowing I would be supported in the program and would be able to build my career while working on my degree.”

Her interest in HSPM stemmed from her experience as the front office manager for the OB-GYN practice, where she became very aware of patient experiences. “Despite our wealth as a nation and highly-developed healthcare system, it is a very difficult system to navigate and is in many ways ineffective at improving someone’s overall health and well-being,” she says. “I found myself explaining people’s insurance to them and trying to find ways to make their care and experience better from a non-clinical viewpoint.”

I felt comfortable knowing I would be supported in the program and would be able to build my career while working on my degree.

-Leigh Robertson, MPH in HSPM graduate

Robertson decided to use her graduate program as an opportunity to drill down to what truly impacts overall health as well as how to be a part of the healthcare delivery system while keeping population health in mind. HSPM’s focus on systems-thinking would increase her knowledge in management skills and how policies shape the healthcare system.  

With Kenison as a mentor, Robertson jumped into her program and the opportunities it offered. In addition to taking two of the clinical assistant professor’s courses, Robertson obtained a graduate assistantship through Kenison’s connections. “She has always been so kind, accessible, and encouraging during my time at the Arnold School,” Robertson says.

As a graduate assistant for Healthy Learners, Robertson provided evaluation and project management services to the local nonprofit organization, which helps children overcome barriers to accessing healthcare. There, she found another mentor in the program’s evaluator, Maria McCall, who invited Robertson to join a grant-funded project to help transform healthcare for pregnant and postpartum women in Florence, South Carolina.  

Involve yourself in a variety of opportunities while completing a program of study so you can learn in the classroom and apply that knowledge in a practical setting at the same time.

-Leigh Robertson, MPH in HSPM graduate

This fall, Robertson has been working on a Bundled Payments for Care Improvement (BPCI) project at Midlands Orthopaedics and Neurosurgery to fulfill the residency component of her program. “BPCI is a promising response to healthcare reform. In coordinating this program for Midlands OrthoNeuro, I have been able to marry my backgrounds of public health experience and working for physician practices into a residency opportunity,” says Robertson, who will transition into a full-time position with the organization as a data analyst and project specialist after her December graduation.  

“Find your passions and think critically about what you enjoy learning about and doing,” she advises future students. “Involve yourself in a variety of opportunities while completing a program of study so you can learn in the classroom and apply that knowledge in a practical setting at the same time.”