Rachel Allred is an MPH candidate in the department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics, and Environmental Science (EHGES) at the Austin campus. She completed a practicum in Summer 2021 with The University of Arizona in which she analyzed data and communicated results of an ethnographic study of women with diabetes and/or hypertension in Senegal, West Africa. Rachel shared with the Office of Public Health Practice and Engagement (OPHPE) that her initial attempts at identifying and securing a practicum experience were unsuccessful, but once she decided to “think outside the box” and work with her faculty mentor to plan a self-developed practicum, the opportunity to engage with her preceptor came to fruition. “After weeks of talking to one person and then another,” says Rachel, “I recognized that I needed to figure out a different path and be open to other options.”
Though initially seeking a practicum in neurology in a hospital setting, Rachel shared that completing her practicum at the University of Arizona working on a study about metabolic conditions in a specific global population was both meaningful and rewarding. She worked with her preceptor to complete data analysis and write the Methods and Results sections for a publication as her first final product. For her second final product, she presented the results of the study to stakeholders in the community, using scientific skills to relay evidence-based recommendations to address environmental factors (e.g., food security) in the relationship between diabetes and quality of life measures among Senegalese women.
Rachel says that the most meaningful part of her practicum was gaining experience with data analysis using Stata software. She appreciated that practicum gave her an opportunity for real-world application of concepts learned in epidemiology and biostatistics courses.
While the applied skills practice was meaningful to Rachel, the most rewarding part of her practicum was the opportunity to work with, learn from, and share in the joy of revealing and presenting new findings with her preceptor, Emma Bunkley. Rachel says she was inspired by working with a preceptor who was “so invested in and dedicated to her study population.”
For a meaningful practicum, Rachel recommends that fellow students keep an open mind when searching for a practicum and form a communication plan as a part of practicum planning. She met frequently with her preceptor and her faculty mentor during her practicum and says that their guidance throughout was extremely helpful.
“The best advice I have for future practicum students is to broaden your horizons and think outside of the box when looking for a practicum. You never know what might turn up if you’re open to possibilities that may not have been on your immediate radar.”
Students can access practicum resources on the Practicum Overview page of mySPH.