Epidemiologists specialize in tracking the origins and patterns of disease and illness. Whether the subject matter is infectious disease (e.g., AIDS) or unintentional injuries (e.g., falls among the elderly) epidemiologists seek to define the characteristics of an emerging or existing public health problem, measure the incidence and prevalence of the epidemic, and design appropriate interventions to control it. Students who are interested in epidemiology are advised to use free electives to acquire a strong background in applied statistics and research methods; computer skills, and in particular a familiarity with commonly used statistical packages such as SPSS, SAS or Epi Info will provide students with a competitive edge in graduate school. Graduate study in the field (either a Master of Public Health or a Master of Science in Public Health) is required to obtain a position as an epidemiologist.
Epidemiologists work in a variety of settings. They are employed by hospitals, state, local, and federal government agencies, and private foundations. Two HPM graduates have worked as senior epidemiologists/program managers for the Rhode Island Department of Health. Students interested in advanced study in public health or epidemiology should confer with their advisor about graduate school options and course planning.
Public health promotion
A growing body of evidence over the past three decades indicates that individuals’ lifestyle choices (e.g., smoking, diet, exercise) are important determinants of health. The role of lifestyle and environmental variables in shaping health care outcomes has created many opportunities for HPM graduates interested in health promotion. Graduates interested in health promotion may design and/or implement public health promotion campaigns on a wide range of issues, including bicycle helmet use, alcohol education, smoking cessation, lead exposure, playground safety, and AIDS/STD control. Generally speaking, a bachelor’s degree offers students opportunities to work directly with clients in health promotion. Students interested in designing and/or evaluating the effectiveness of various health education and health promotion initiatives are advised to pursue graduate study in public health.
Students interested in health education and promotion may wish to complement their coursework in HPM with courses in health psychology, the sociology of health and illness, and social work. Recent graduates from the HPM program work in the areas of harm reduction for IV drug users, tobacco control, and as client advocates for local community action agencies.