Student Spotlight: Behind Marianne Olaniran MS, MPH
Q. Tell us about yourself and how your interest in public health began.
A. I was born in the United States and raised both here and in Nigeria. My interest in public health was fueled by my early childhood experiences living in Nigeria where I became aware of the devastation that occurs in families and communities due to hardships caused by what I later understood to be social determinants of health.
Q: What does your educational and professional background look like, and how that led you to UTHealth Houston School of Public Health?
A. I hold a Master of Public Health in Global Health Leadership from New York University. I also obtained a Master of Science in Health Sciences with a focus on Clinical Management and Leadership from George Washington University, and a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the University of Utah. Additionally, I completed coursework for a graduate certificate in Quality, Patient Safety, and Outcomes Research from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
My professional background includes work at the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in New York City, Deloitte (where I audited healthcare organizations) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, both in Washington, DC. Most recently, prior to joining UTHealth Houston School of Public Health, I worked at Cambridge Health Alliance (a teaching hospital for Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA) as a program administrator for the Children's Health Initiative, and project director for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Performance Accountability and Reporting System. These professional experiences intensified my desire to obtain specialized skills to address public health issues at the population level and improve access to healthcare for marginalized populations. I relocated to Texas from Massachusetts for the doctoral program.
Q. What program(s) are you pursuing at UTHealth Houston School of Public Health?
A. I am a Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) candidate, majoring in health promotion with a minor in healthcare management. I’m concurrently pursuing a graduate certificate in healthcare administration. My research interests include cancer prevention and control, obesity, patient safety and healthcare quality, and maternal and child health. At the School of Public Health, I serve as a doctoral student representative for the Practice Council, a graduate research assistant, and a judge for the Office of Public Health Practice and Engagement’s Practicum Presentation Competition.
Q. Why did you choose UTHealth Houston School of Public Health for your DrPH?
A. I chose the UTHealth Houston School of Public Health after reviewing the DrPH curriculum, which emphasized utilizing theory-based interventions to improve health outcomes for various populations. Also, the program requires practicum experience which enables students to practice the skills they have obtained. Furthermore, I was impressed that the school offered various graduate certificates, and several opportunities for research.
Lastly, I selected UTHealth Houston School of Public Health because of its location. After my husband completed his sub-specialty physician training in Massachusetts, we decided to settle in Texas to grow our family. We chose Texas because of the weather, quality of life, and my family members who reside in the state. I had visited the Dallas area several times and always thought this would be a great place to live. Consequently, I applied to the DrPH program – at the Dallas location.
Q. How have your relationships with faculty and mentors impacted your education?
A. My relationships with faculty and mentors have been invaluable to my educational experience. My professors have provided a nurturing and intellectually stimulating environment where I know that I am respected and valued. This has empowered me to utilize my knowledge and skills to ensure that I excel in all my classes. The faculty here have been easy to communicate with, and available to provide guidance and information, even after I have completed their courses.
My faculty advisor, Marlyn Allicock, PhD, MPH, is a great mentor to me. She is very supportive, both professionally and personally, and continues to encourage me to pursue my career goals. I served as both her graduate research assistant and graduate teaching assistant. Working with Dr. Allicock provided great opportunities for research that led to a publication in the Journal of Cancer Survivorship. Through her mentorship, I have developed new skills that will certainly serve me well in my future career.
Another amazing mentor I have is Sarah Messiah, PhD, MPH, who is also the chair of my dissertation committee. I first met Dr. Messiah as a student in her pediatric epidemiology course, which was one of my favorite classes. I currently serve as her graduate research assistant, and I am thankful for the opportunity to work closely with her. She has been instrumental in developing my dissertation work and has shown great support. Additionally, we are working on interesting projects, and I am learning more about research, resource management, and leadership from her.
My relationships with Drs. Allicock and Messiah have positively influenced my educational experience. They have provided opportunities for me to collaborate on research endeavors with public health experts both within and outside the UTHealth Houston system. Both faculty members exemplify the interested, involved, and hands-on mentorship I was told would be available at the School of Public Health. They are phenomenal leaders committed to ensuring their mentees achieve their educational and professional goals.
Q. What advice do you have for incoming students?
A. I advise incoming students to ensure they understand the concepts and develop the skills that are being taught in their courses. These skills will be beneficial in their subsequent classes and throughout their public health career. Additionally, I strongly recommend that all incoming students should network with faculty. They should take some time to look at the School of Public Health website to find out the research interest areas for each professor and then connect with those working on topics that they may be interested in.
These faculty are experts in the field and can help them with their research endeavors or direct them on how to proceed. Lastly, incoming students should prepare to serve and participate in school activities. This will help them to develop beneficial skills and make them known to others in the school community.
Q. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
A. In 10 years, I see myself in a top leadership position at a healthcare organization that prioritizes providing access to good quality healthcare for vulnerable populations, using evidence-based methods with an openness to new innovations and techniques.