MPH@GW Student Spotlight: Elizabeth Arnold
Current Position: Registered Nurse
Elizabeth Arnold is a go-getter who enjoys problem solving and helping others as a full-time registered nurse. She dreamed of starting her own nonprofit and decided to earn a Master of Public Health (MPH) in order to gain the skills to affect health on a global scale. In today’s student spotlight, Elizabeth shares her story and explains how an MPH will help her achieve her goals.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m 24 years old, and I currently work as a registered nurse in a surgical intensive care unit in Miami, Florida. We primarily take care of patients who have undergone organ transplants as well as trauma patients and other patients who have had extensive surgery. I love the fast-paced environment of a teaching hospital, but my heart has always been with underserved populations and communities that lack resources.
What else should we know about your career in health care?
I always try to look for opportunities to make things easier for people to do a difficult task or job. For example, when I first started working in the surgical ICU at my current job, I was studying and reading over all the material given to me, and I began to develop a cheat sheet for myself with pertinent information that I could have readily available as a resource in case I forgot something. Well, after speaking with some of the more experienced nurses, I decided that if I expanded it and really put in the time and the effort I could create a small handbook with essential information on working in the surgical ICU for all new nurses who start the job. So I created a handbook small enough to fit in someone’s pocket that was then published by my institution and now is used as a bedside resource for all nurses on the unit.
Why and when did you decide to earn an MPH degree?
I have been volunteering on mission trips for a good majority of my life, and I always knew I wanted to be a nurse and work in a global health arena. I was working for a chiropractor’s office freshman year of college and started talking to a patient about their recent trip to Haiti. I was so touched to learn about people’s living conditions and the extreme lack of basic health care in Haiti. When I went home that night, I couldn’t stop thinking about it until an idea popped into my head to develop a nonprofit that would provide basic health care for communities that are lacking such resources. My hope was to eventually teach and train the community to make the clinics self-sustainable and empower the community to take care of themselves and take control of their own health. Through months of research, I decided that I wanted to enhance my passion by furthering my education and earning an MPH after I graduated with my nursing degree. This passion has continued to be fueled by my trip to Haiti during nursing school and the education that I have been receiving here at GW.
Why did you choose the MPH@GW program?
I looked at probably about 10 different online public health programs and eventually I narrowed it down to USC, Johns Hopkins and GW. The reason I chose GW over every other school is because of several reasons. 1) The online format is very user friendly, and I enjoyed still being able to connect with classmates through the classroom setting yet have the flexibility of an online program. 2) The caliber of alumni and where graduates of this program have gone to work is very impressive. The same can be said for the faculty; not only do they have extensive credentials, but a majority of them still work in the public health field so they bring up-to-date knowledge to the classroom. 3) The core curriculum includes a lot more classes which I feel gives students a more well-rounded knowledge of the field once we graduate. Also, the selection of global health elective courses is much greater than other universities.
Do you have a favorite class?
So far my favorite classes have been Principles and Practice of Epidemiology and Biological Basis of Disease in Public Health. I come with a nursing background, and so Biological Basis of Disease in Public Health was very interesting to me. Learning about infectious disease and how exactly a virus works in the body was very interesting. I also enjoyed Principles and Practice of Epidemiology and finally understanding how to calculate data about infectious disease and what all the data means.
What has been your favorite part of the experience at MPH@GW?
My favorite part of this experience has been the opportunity to meet different classmates from every walk of life one could imagine. There are no two people that have taken the same course to get to this point. It is so interesting to not only hear everyone’s different backgrounds but to listen to the different ideas everyone has on how to best use the MPH degree when they graduate.
Do you know what you would like to do for your practicum experience?
I am hoping to travel overseas either to Uganda or Haiti. I haven’t fully developed the project that I would like to work on yet, but I would love the opportunity to go back overseas.
In your opinion, what is the best thing about earning your MPH online with GW?
The best thing has been the ability to network with such high-caliber classmates and professors in the public health field. It is a wonderful feeling knowing that my classmates may be colleagues in the future, and at the end of the day, we are all working toward the same overall goal of improving health and the environment that we live in.
What are you hoping to accomplish upon graduation?
After graduation, I am hoping to continue my education by becoming a nurse practitioner. Once I have finished all my schooling, I am hoping to start a nonprofit organization that focuses on providing small clinics in low-resource countries with a self-sustainable focus. I want to train those in the community to take charge of their health and empower them to hold their community accountable. I would also like to affect health on a global scale. I hope to eventually work with the United Nations or World Health Organization and help to bring better access to health care around the world.