Over the past three years, the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the critical need for experienced, passionate and knowledgeable public health professionals.
For Kristin Reichardt, that awareness is what ultimately encouraged her to pursue a Master of Public Health online from USC.
Joining the program in the midst of the pandemic, Reichardt saw firsthand the crucial role that epidemiologists play in combating disease outbreaks and other public health emergencies, which led her to concentrate in biostatistics and epidemiology.
And while COVID-19 did inspire her return to school to earn her master’s degree, Reichardt’s passion for public health initially began during her undergraduate studies. As a biology student at University of Notre Dame, she landed an internship in her hometown of Arlington, Texas, that focused on mosquito control.
“West Nile virus is really bad in Tarrant County, in Arlington. I did some work setting mosquito traps and going around talking to people whenever we got traps that came back positive for West Nile. That meant I did a lot of public outreach during that internship, and that’s where I really first got interested in public health,” she told USC Online.
The conclusion of her internship, however, wasn’t the end of her research with mosquito-borne diseases. After graduation, Reichardt married a U.S. Navy member, leading travel all across the country and an eventual relocation to Augusta, Georgia. There, Reichardt continued her work with mosquito control at the Georgia Department of Public Health.
Still, she knew that in order to truly thrive in the field, she needed to deepen her knowledge and hone her skill sets.
“I chose the [biostatistics and epidemiology] concentration because while I was at mosquito control, I had all this surveillance data and wanted to be able to do more with it and improve my data analysis skills,” Reichardt explained. “I started my degree in the summer of 2021 — right in the middle of the pandemic, which also inspired me, because it showed me how much need [there is] for epidemiologists and public health professionals.”
Keck School of Medicine of USC was a natural fit for Reichardt, as its online MPH is one of the few master’s programs that offers a focus in biostatistics and epidemiology. As a military spouse, Reichardt also needed the flexibility of an online program, which she now accesses from her new home in Florida.
The MPH — which can be taken on a full-time, part-time or fast-track basis — prepares graduates to maximize their impact on the world of public health and health care. Although students can specialize their learnings with concentrations like community health promotion and global health, they can also pursue a generalist path.
So far, Reichardt has particularly enjoyed the format of the program, which begins with core, more broad courses in areas such as health promotion and policy, before moving on to concentration-specific classes, including epidemiology, infectious and chronic diseases, and biostatistics.
“This semester, I’ll be taking a practicum course and a capstone course to finish up the program so I can practice what I’ve learned before graduation. I like the setup of [starting] with the more broad, general topics and specializing as you move forward,” she explained.
While Reichardt is thrilled about the experience and knowledge she’s gained through the program, connecting and collaborating with her fellow cohort members has been another highlight of attending USC.
“Everyone has been supportive, including my classmates, faculty and staff. A lot of [my peers] are in similar positions as me: trying to get their degrees while they’re working or they’re dealing with moving, or they’re having kids and balancing those roles,” she said. “When I was going through my husband’s deployment and our recent move to Florida, I talked with student support, my professors and the administrators, and they were all very accommodating. That meant a lot to me.”
With two semesters left of the program, Reichardt already has her eye turned toward the future. Following graduation, she hopes to work in a government agency’s public health department as an applied epidemiologist, specifically in disease control and prevention.
When asked what advice she would give others considering the online MPH program Reichardt stressed the importance of forging connections with faculty, classmates and other members of the Trojan community.
“It can be easy to just log in, do your assignments and log out, but you’ll get the most out of the program if you reach out to professors and other classmates. It can be a little intimidating, but everyone’s really friendly and supportive of online students. Put yourself out there and try to make as many contacts as you can,” Reichardt said.
Learn more about the online Master of Public Health program today.