MPH Student Success Story Spotlight on Michael Pham
USC MPH Student Success Spotlight Webinar: Spotlight on Michael Pham
Thursday, November 19, 2016
In this Student Success Spotlight webinar, University of Southern California’s Master of Public Health (MPH) online program student, Michael Quocminh Pham, discusses his personal success story integrating learnings from the USC MPH online program to his work leading public health efforts in the Dominican Republic. Moderated by Dr. Shubha Kumar.
USC MPH Student: Michael Quocminh Pham, B.S.
Program Director: Dr. Shubha Kumar
Enrollment Advisor: Philip Solaria
Student Support: Jessica Demas
Philip: Welcome to the Master of Public Health Online program Student Success Story Spotlight on Michael Pham, presented by Keck School of Medicine at University of Southern California. I am enrollment advisor Philip Deloria and I’ll be your host today. First I’d like to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to join us. Before we begin, I’d like to review what you can expect during the presentation.
(1:04)Here is a quick look at what we will be covering. With us today is Dr. Shubha Kumar, Program Director of the Master of Public Health Online program at USC, Spring 2016 Master of Public Health Online candidate, Michael Pham and Steven Gutierrez, enrollment advisor for USC’s Master of Public Health Online program, like myself. First, we will hear from Dr. Shubha Kumar who will share a little bit about her background with us. Then Michael Pham will tell us a little bit about himself and share his experience leading public health efforts in the Dominican Republic this past summer and as a current student in USC’s MPH Online program.
Lastly, I will speak to the admission requirements, important dates and deadlines, and information about how to contact an enrollment advisor to begin an online application. We will end the presentation with a brief Q&A session. Now let’s get started. Hello Dr. Kumar, thank you for joining us today. Please share a little bit about yourself with our audience.
Dr. Kumar: Hello, thanks for turning it over. Thank you everyone for joining us. Apologies again for the delay. A bit about my background, I have worked in public health for several years now. My interests are specifically working in low and middle-income countries to improve management and build promotion. I came to academia as a result of working with several NGOs across the globe, seeing how they operate and how we could operate more effectively. I’m very passionate about public health. Just like our student Michael Pham, who you’re going to be hearing from very soon.
Philip: Thank you. Hello Michael Pham, thank you joining us. Will you please share a little bit about yourself with our audience today?
Michael Pham: Sure. Hi everyone, my name is Michael. I’m a second year student here in the MPH program online and it wasn’t so long ago that I was listening in on the seminar too as a prospective student and I’m really glad to be here right now as someone who’s almost graduating. I did my undergrad at UCLA and I trained also as an EMT. I was a paramedic.
I spent a lot of the past six years working in emergency medicine working as an educator, as a paramedic, and working in the field. During that time I got the chance to start an organization called the CPR Hero Training Center, which is one of the largest emergency facilities and training sites in Southern California. We certify about 10,000 people a year and that’s just only within the US and we are also doing efforts internationally. I’ve gotten a wonderful opportunity to combine the type of work that I’m doing.
(4:29) Michael Pham: So continuing, I found a wonderful chance to utilize my MPH cycle within my work and also do directed research with wonderful faculty mentors. I’m happy to share my experience later about the work we did internationally.
Philip: Thank you Michael. Before Mike shares his experience leading public efforts in the Dominican Republic this past summer, Dr. Kumar can you provide some context for our audience? Why was Michael selected to be our featured student success story today?
Dr. Kumar: Sure. Actually the whole webinar series has been inspired by Michael, to be honest. Michael was taking my class in the summer on directed research and sharing with me a little bit about what he’s doing at work and this exciting project he was doing in the Dominican Republic to train folks in emergency response. In the course we started talking about how he could combine his assignments to complement what he’s doing in his job. He came back from the Dominican Republic after his project ended and had a lot to share. Very exciting work and really kind of inspired us to create this series.
Philip: Thank you Dr. Kumar. With that, let’s turn it over to Michael Pham. Michael, please tell us more about your public health efforts in the Dominican Republic.
Michael Pham: Again everyone, the work that I did in this past summer and I also had the chance to work with Dr. Kumar during one of the courses offered, which is directed research and that’s one of the great things about the MPH program is being about to do directed research with a faculty member. So we did our work in the Dominican Republic.
So I think everyone can read here and I’ll kind of summarize basically the problem. The reason why we went into the Dominican Republic was because in any type of, I believe, public health or any type of health related issue, there’s always some type of need. For the Dominican Republic, it is one of those countries that is represented as a low income, developing country. They do not have a unified, emergency medical services system.
For those who live in Los Angeles County, for myself I spent a lot of my past years in LA working and then being a student. Even in LA city it’s so crowded, but you know what? The response time for an ambulance is less than six minutes in LA city or LA County fire departments. That’s very impressive. However in other countries you’re talking about a delay in response time upwards of ten, 15 minutes or greater and even if they get on scene, who knows if they’re actually doing the right type of assessment or protocol as well.
The Dominican Republic is one of the leading countries in Latin America that actually has the highest number of deaths related to trauma and pre-hospital trauma out of all Latin American countries. So it’s a staggering number. Almost as much as 11 people die per day due to traffic related injuries or pre-hospital trauma. It could be auto versus them, auto versus auto, a lot of issues.
I had the wonderful chance to work with the U.S. Embassy and the Ministry of Health in the Dominican Republic to create a system and to help implement a program based off of U.S. guidelines and standards to train their First Responders, which include not only the pre-hospital EMS personnel but also physicians, nurses, anyone that has patient care, they have to be trained in a universal type of EMS education system so that they can communicate with each other. Again, the problem in the Dominican Republic was that we have a leading cause of death, that being pre-hospital mortality and that there needs to be some type of program implemented to help fix it and reduce pre-hospital mortality.
So I won’t get into too many details about the history of the Dominican EMS, but many of these evolving countries, they are in no way as developed as the system we have here in the western world. So for the Dominican Republic, they didn’t really get any type of EMS system until maybe the 1930s when there was a huge disaster, hurricane, and then Red Cross was the first nonprofit organization to come in and actually start some type of service, that being an ambulance, but then again those ambulances were just really transportation vehicles and they just kinda loaded people in and they’re shipping them to the hospital, but there was no standard of care in how that person was transported, how they’re treated on scene. Really it was just load and go.
So if I got hit by a car and I need spinal mobilization, there’s really no standard for that. They probably just toss you into the car and I’d probably have to go through a couple of other injuries while in route. It wasn’t until recently that, in the 90s, early 2000s, some type of system was being enacted and that was a universal 911 number.
So one of the problems right now in the Dominican Republic is that people do not have a universal number to call. Before they were calling five different numbers. One number for police, one number for fire, one number for medical, one number for traffic, and the list goes on. So people are confused or miseducated and when they’re calling the wrong numbers they’re being put on hold. They’re not getting the right type of resources, so therefore you’re basically increasing response time. This definitely affects patient outcome.
So it wasn’t until recently in 2012 that the Dominican Republic formed the Ministry of Health and they instituted a 911 national dispatch center. That is only in the capital Santo Domingo which is where we were dispatched to, but now they’re starting something in the past three years, and now we were the next step, which is to implement a universal training program. Hopefully the work that we did is able to be replicated and extrapolated to other neighboring cities and hopefully around the country. Next slide please.
All right, as I mentioned before the problem with the Dominican Republic is that there’s no EMS authority, so in the US here, we have the U.S. National Association of EMTs, we have governing bodies of emergency medicine, we have Academy of Emerging Physicians. We have all these standards based off of different scientific guidelines, The American Heart Association, National Trauma Life Support. A lot of different entities that work together, but in these countries they don’t have any type of organization like this so basically the problem is, one, that there isn’t a universal system so people can’t agree on how folks should be trained and transported.
Two, there isn’t a cooperation or coordination amongst other healthcare professionals. So let’s just say that if I picked up a patient in the back of my ambulance and I bring him to the hospital, they don’t really know what I’ve done and even if I communicate to them, they’re not trained to really listen to what I’ve done. Maybe the type of assessment I’m doing is not a type of assessment that they’re doing, so they have to redo the assessment and that just again, delays treatment time.
But for myself, when I worked as a paramedic in Los Angeles County, station 57, if I’m transporting an ALS patient to a trauma center such as USC or UCLA, I’m going to call in and talk to the registered nurse and mobile get the parents, I’m going to say, “Hey, this is Michael. I’m rescue 86. I have an 82-year-old patient complaining of chest pain, there’s the signs and symptoms, here are the vital signs, here are my medications I have administered” and then they would basically say, “All right rescue 86.” Right when I get off that mount, I transfer that patient and they get immediate care.
In the Dominican Republic you don’t have cooperation, they don’t have that coordination. There’s loose communication and people redo assessments, and basically again it just leads to a lack of accountability and an increase in response time and treatment time. Next slide please. So for myself, I figured that the Dominican Republic, what really needs to be done is that one, there has to be an informed public capable of recognizing emergencies.
So there’s a need for healthcare professionals to educate community members and rescuers like teachers and police officers to know and assess when it’s a medical emergency. Sometimes the difference between either a fracture or a person having an open fracture that leads to hypovolemic shock, is a difference of whether I need to request for a basic life support ambulance or an advanced life support ambulance. One has medication, one doesn’t. One might be integral to stabilize a person pre-hospital, and one may just be a good transportation vehicle and by the time the person arrives to ED (emergency department), they might not have good outcomes. So again there’s a need for the public to know what’s going on.
One of the common things I love to teach about is stroke. Stroke uses what we call the FAST mnemonic. F is for facial slur, A is for arm droop, S is for slurred speech, T is time. Get to the hospital. That’s something we were able to teach them in the Dominican Republic. Secondly, there needs to be a universal access number. It needs to be ambulances; it needs to have an ED with communication.
Next slide please, thank you. This is a team that we assembled. In the Dominican Republic, we work with the U.S. Embassy and the Ministry of Health and they also provided us some members too, but for my personal team that being the CPR Hero Training Center, I was a program director and pictured on the bottom with the polos, they were some of my lead instructors. This is an all-Spanish speaking team, and for myself, my Spanish didn’t really go beyond high school AP Spanish, but luckily my instructors were completely bilingual. I was very fortunate really cause given a large team with different, varying experienced from to respiratory therapy to paramedic to nursing, and also pictured on the bottom are my instructors.
On the top left you see the people in the polos in the white? They are the EMTs from the Ministry of Health and they only represent a small fraction of the EMS system in the capital. So there are actually different EMS agencies, but they’re one of the agencies that we work with. And in the top right was our guide, Dr. Pacheco. They don’t talk about stakeholders, but it’s so important to find folks on the ground that believe in your mission, that have resources that can work with you in making sure that your project gets off the ground and is completed. Next slide please.
So the objectives for everyone here is when we were contracted by the U.S. Embassy, we were kinda given some guidelines on what they expected. We kinda had to play ball with them and say, “All right, so this is what you want us to do.” And basically we want to institute a universal training program. Imagine you have doctors, nurses, First Responders, fire fighters, EMTs all trained their own way.
They’re trained in their own system and now we’re trying to give them additional training so they can all be on the same page when it comes to emergency medical services. That goes from spinal mobilization, to rapid trauma assessment, to medication administration, to neurological cardiovascular emergencies, basically a universal way on how to treat, how to respond, how to communicate this to other people.
We implemented this program and we were first to train a group of physicians, nurses, First Responders. We had about 60 to 80 or those individuals and we had a lot of people added last minute. I’ll talk later about the difficulties of working with, sometimes, stakeholders when they kind of give you a lot of expectations and then they change it at the end. But we basically certified about 60 to 80 people in the first couple of weeks. These individuals went through a rigorous U.S. EMT standard program and they were trained on the same level.
Even though they had different backgrounds, they all had the same type of training, same type of skills practice, and at the end we certified them as U.S. First Responders. Then later on we would not only have to train police officers, about a 100 of them, but we also needed to make sure we trained educators. We needed to train the students to be educators so that they can take our work and disseminate it across other different type of cities and other different type of providers as well. Next slide please.
These are some pictures for folks, but this is an example of seeing them in one of our modes, which was trauma and spinal mobilization. So we had a lot of great resources and equipment, we had backboards, we had gurneys, we had the Ministry of Health giving us ammo, so again it’s very important to make sure you’re working with the right people, the right stakeholders, to make sure that they have the resources you need. Literally we were given an assignment and we just had to make it happen. So you kinda have to just problem solve with your team, you have to really map out a chart, and just figure out what do you need, who could give it to you, and how can we get to them, and what do they need from us in order for them to give us what we need. Next slide please.
Here’s another picture of when we went through our CPR First Aid module, which we partnered with other organizations to do this on the ground. But here we have high value equipment with feedback and getting folks understanding, “Hey, this is how deep you gotta compress. This is what ventilation looks like. This is what inhalation looks like.” So you have all the students on the ground and we were working at the University, it’s called University of the Commonfolk and that was the University of Health Sciences in Santo Domingo. Next slide please.
All right, kinda expect for our methods it’s basically – imagine we were there for about a month and the first week is just kinda getting your feet wet, getting used to the city, gathering all the equipment, and then the next three weeks were really just implementation. For us, first we needed to train about 60 to 80 healthcare professionals in U.S. standards, so we have our team with directors, coordinators, and I brought along three instructors not including myself and my coordinator, and we were also given two instructors from the U.S. Embassy to partner with us. So we kinda had a collaboration between organizations to make this happen. Although, we were ultimately the project lead.
We translated all this materials in Spanish, it was difficult but we made it happen and we also administered a pre-test and post-test which proved to be very effective and later I’ll talk about the outcomes of how much basically the scores increased. We were basically there almost everyday; we were there definitely overtime. It was like a 12-hour day and we were doing didactic in the beginning and then we did skills toward the end. So we always had instruction and then we followed up with skills that were applicable to that lecture later on. If I gave a lecture on cardiovascular emergencies, then that means that in the afternoon, we would make sure that we went over cardiac meds, cardiac assessment, and other type of protocols as well. Next slide please.
So here’s a picture for everyone. These are all of our First Generation Responders, so this is our first cohort of students. These are all doctors, nurses, firefighters, and EMTs, every person that has patient care. They were all nominated by their respective departments. It was a great collaboration from the actual country themselves. They chose the best people they could think of to attend this class. It’s a huge honor. So all these people here and then you have some politicians in the front. I had a lot of fun, it was very stressful. Probably one of the most stressful things I’ve ever done in my life but it was a great experience and it really tested my abilities as an MPH candidate.
Next slide please. So just other examples of folks doing two less fewer instant basic life support CPR. Next slide.
So kind of going to wrap this up for continuing methods. That was our first two weeks and then our next week we had to train the police officers. Again, you’re kind of understanding here that you not only train medical professionals, but you have got to train the community responders too because oftentimes when we call 911 here in the U.S., who arrives here on the scene first? Oftentimes it’s police. So if police don’t know what to do or know how to stabilize or know how to at least stop bleeding, then there’s such a delay in treatment time.
When paramedics arrive on scene and they’re like, “You know what? This guy’s been bleeding out for three minutes. You could’ve just applied pressure.” Just basic things like that you think is common sense, it really isn’t. It’s also the culture of the country too. Police officers, they don’t want to do medical. They really just push it off to another person, but that’s a problem in mentality. You have to make sure that everyone understands they are First Responders and there is a collaboration between public health service and civil service to make sure that we take care of the community and the public.
One of the things we talk to police officers like, “Hey, even though you’re not medical personnel, you still want to teach you CPR, we still want to teach you first aid, to at least recognize what’s going on.” So we did this training in the police headquarters, Policia Nacional, in Santo Domingo and it was a great session and I’ll show some pictures later. Basically we trained all 100 and we had the police captain and chief come out, media come out, so it was a great experience. Next slide please.
Here you go. We have one of my staff, Dan, he’s a paramedic like myself and here was where we’re teaching the police officers. They’re just so energetic. I still remember at the end of the last session, one person just commented. He said he never dreamt that he would get this type of training as a police officer and that he feels so safe to take care of his kid, his family, and those that he responds to on scene. When police are on scene, they kinda just take a step back like, “Oh, this is not my type of training. I’m just going to wait until the ambulance arrives,” so you know what?
Such a delay in time and they’re just kinda just sitting there twiddling their thumbs and maybe clearing the scene, which is good, but they can be doing other type of first response items too. Next slide please.
Here you have one of the cohorts of police officers. Very disciplined. They all had an open heart coming into this program and I was very honored to do this training for the police officers. Very proud people. You know, the Dominican people, one thing I realized is they have such a love for their country. They have a love for their people. They all don’t get paid well, even doctors get paid really, really poorly and they do it because they feel that it’s their duty to protect and to serve and to preserve life. So next slide please.
All right, so on the last part of that then we train the instructors. So we’ve kind of given impossible tasks by the government and that was to do simultaneous trainings at the police headquarters and train instructors. I had to split my team. I can only be in one place, so I chose to be with instructors and my coordinator Richard chose to be with the police officers, so it’s hard for me because as a perfectionist you kinda want to make sure everything is done well and this is kind of your job on the line, this is your reputation, you know? You’re representing the U.S. You want to do a good job.
For me I had to really trust my team and that yielded to health leadership too in the MPH course. A lot of my curriculum, a lot of my professors that I got to work with like Dr. Anamara, we talk about health leadership, organization, working with a team, communication, a lot of the great things that I learned personally through MPH coursework. Next slide please.
So here is a picture of ambulance and triage operations. One of the biggest things that we conquered was disaster emergency management. There have been a lot of tragedies that happened in the past couple of weeks and months.
For a country like the Dominican Republic, they don’t really have a standard on how to deal with MCIs, or Mass Casualty Incidents. If there’s a huge explosion, or there’s a huge disaster, what do we do? There’s a bunch of bodies on the ground, how can I triage people? Who has priority? Who is tagged green, has walking wounded? Who’s is tagged yellow, has a late transport? Who is tagged red, has immediate? Who is tagged black, has deceased? How can I organize a system where if I’m First Responder on the scene, how can I make sure that I know who to designate as people that need treatment and people that need delayed treatment?
By the time all the ambulances arrive, they can figure out, “Hey, I gotta help these people out first. These people, I can wait for about an hour.” Again, we want to teach them how we organize our own type of MCI command structure in the U.S. So this is one of the big things that we did and we did a mock MCI.
We had all the students just lay out there, they were tagged different type of (injuries) – they were given cards. They kinda had to act like, “Hey, you’re altered,” “Hey, you’re missing an arm,” “Hey, you’re in shock,” “Hey, you’re confused,” “Hey, you just have a broken arm,” and we had the groups kinda split up and figure out what to do and it was a mess. But I’m glad it was a mess because they figured out it needed to be organized to deal with this if it happened to their country. Next slide please.
So the outcome is that we were able to train healthcare professionals into U.S. First Responder standards and we were able to also train the capital police officers in CPR and first aid. And we were also able to train instructors to be instructors.
So we left having close to 200 hundred people who are certified, and trained, and making sure that we created a system so they can continue to replicate our program. So we were able to debrief and basically implement a plan that, within the next five years hopefully, our program is able to disseminated into neighboring cities and again we talked about the capital, we were there in Santo Domingo, the capital, but so many other cities and so many other out coves of the Dominican Republic that don’t have this type of standard and the capital’s looking at their first 911 call center like, “Hey, we gotta do that in other cities too, and the program that we did, we gotta do it in other cities as well.”
Earlier I mentioned that we image pre- and post-test, and it was very, very effective. We saw that when students took our pre-test, which is 100 question U.S. EMT exam that covered all major modules, when they took the pre-test and the post-test, their score increased about 24 percent across the board. I was very, very happy to see that and see that, you know our program was effective. Our homework, the way we taught, our skills practical, they were all effective and we know that, you know what? If everyone went through a program like this you would definitely see some type of increased outcome and knowledge and practical skill in how to really deal with these emergencies. Next slide please.
Here we have the graduation of the First Responders. The graduation ended up being very big, we went into the University conference hall and they had media come out. It was a big honor. We had certificates, we had the Director, Dr. Pacheco of the 911 call center come out. Then we had also represented, cabinet members of Dominican government come out as well too. They kinda just shook everyone’s hands and took a lot of photos, but it was a great experience. I felt this was a great honor and I felt that for the rest of the country to see, you know what, the government’s doing some things and trying to get their foot on the ground to make sure they mobilize their system. Next slide.
So we’re coming towards the end here. I kinda just want to reiterate the stakeholders that I work with, but it was the U.S. Embassy, it was the government of the Dominican Republic, it was the Ministry of Public Health which would be kinda like our U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or at the local level at least, kinda like your country Department of Health Services. So we also work with the University of Health Sciences. They’re already doing these type of medical processes but not EMS classes. Of course they were the perfect fit to do the classes at their center, with their classroom, with their staff, so that they can take our program and they can throw in curriculum as well.
Of course working with healthcare professionals and most importantly the Dominican people. They are hugely close because you know what? I had a family down there, I don’t want my kid to walk out the door and he gets hit by a car and you know what? No one knows how to really treat him and he kinda just gets put into the back of a bus and just gets sent out and then the people receiving him, they don’t really know what to do either. So the Dominican people, they were huge stakeholders of making sure they felt safe and they felt happy in their own country knowing they have hope. Next slide please.
So here are the key instructors and stakeholders, so our instructors are represented there in the polos and the lanyards. On the far left we have Dr. Pacheco, who was a huge help, our liaison, a personal friend of mine. Then folks in the middle. You have the president of the University, you have cabinet members of the Dominican Republic, you have folks from the U.S. Embassy and from the Ministry of Health as well. Next slide please.
Here we have a press conference in media. You have all the higher up people on the right. So you got all the important politicians and whatnot. Then you got instructors right in front of you and again, this was a huge honor. When you don’t see from the far left is it’s actually all the students that sat there during the graduation, so it was really nice. Next slide please.
So like I said, I’m not going to get too into details, but these are the type of phases that we went through. Again, for prospective MPH students you will really learn the importance of really mapping out your program implementation. Going through phases like your first phase, you need assessment, what’s going on, what do we need to do, what’s the problem, right?
So I identified these problems earlier on, what the Dominican Republic needs and once you basically figure out, “Hey this is a problem, not a solution,” and you move onto the next phase and you find your stakeholders. You find your partners. You find people that you need to work with that have the resources you need to get this off the ground and make it work. You find people invested and you collaborate with them to make sure that the project gets done.
Next phase we developed our training, our curriculum. We did all of this on the ground. We did it here in the U.S. I went to a lot of webinars, conferences, making sure we were all on the same page. Then we implement the program, which we did in about a month. Afterwards we evaluate. You debrief and you make sure, hey, what went right? What went wrong? And you figure out how can you do this better, and if we are to revisit this country later on or replicate this type of work in different countries, what do we need to do to improve from what we did prior? You have to reevaluate your team, the structure, the cooperation, the networks, everything.
Next slide please. So the problems that I faced during this was actually complying with strict regulations. I think our stakeholders have a lot of…I would deem impossible objectives, being in multiple places and getting limited resources. The problems with stakeholders sometimes too is they do not understand the work that you do. For me, I know what we need to do to get this off the ground, but when they say, “Hey, cut this in half,” it’s really impossible.
How can you fit a standard curriculum and cut the time in half? So we really have to play a lot of ball with them and figure out, “Hey, can you compromise with this?” because at some point I also have to have integrity as the person coming out as a representative to make sure we do a good job too. I can’t really just put 50 percent into this, I have to make sure I’m advocating for the education of the citizens as well. Limited resources, budget, a lot of unexpected challenges.
One of the biggest challenges was that we ordered eight spinal backboards to be used, but when we got to the airport at LAX, they didn’t let us carry it on. Even though it’s considered an oversized carry-on item, like a set of golf clubs, the Dominican Republic had a specific embargo on large carry-on items. Only that country. Very few countries like the Dominican Republic. So we had to ship our backboards back and then we had to, on the ground, work with stakeholders on the ground to make sure that we got backboards. We were able to get it from the local ambulance agency. So a lot of unexpected challenges.
Communication and team dynamics, we had a lot of difficulty working with our partners and the instructors that were given to us, but we were able to compromise and make everything happen. But it’s stressful, you’re kinda down there, you have got to make everything work and you have got to just compromise. That’s something I learned a lot in the MPH coursework, communication and making sure that expectations are set forth. Next slide please.
All right, so I think it’s my last slide here, but a follow-up objective is to come back and we are actually going to come back probably next year and we’re going to do more medical work down there but we’re also going to revisit and see how effective our program was and we also want to see how can we extrapolate data? The work that you do as MPH students and graduates, when you do it in a different country, it can be replicated in a different country as well. That’s where I’m working with the faculty right now to see how we can do this for other developing countries.
Again, the work that you do is gold and you have got to make sure even if it doesn’t work, you can still reevaluate and fix it and make it work the next time, right? Of course, there’s internal debrief, evaluates the programs, and plan for the next successful/mission. I believe that’s all my slides. So again, it was a huge honor and I was very fortunate to go on this mission with my team and being an MPH student during that time, taking classes still, and also working with the faculty members to make sure that this project worked, it was a huge success. Again, that was one of the highlights definitely of my career as an MPH student at USC. Thank you.
Philip: Thank you very much Michael for sharing that with all of us. That was fantastic. Just a quick reminder, if you have questions for Michael please type your questions into the Q&A and we’ll definitely get those answers to you. Now Michael, I’d like to ask you just a few short questions about your experience as a student in the USC MPH Online program. What was your opinion about online learning prior to you applying to the program and how has your opinion changed since starting the program?
Michael Pham: So definitely I had a lot of thoughts going through my head when I was applying for the MPH program online. For me, being an undergrad in LA, I had a few online courses and so you know I kinda had different opinions, but I felt like I needed to be in class because I wanted to talk to my professors. So of course like most students, I had a little bit of skepticism, but then I realized that this is an online program at a prestigious University, one of the largest health oriented academic teaching universities. I realized, you know what? If they’re going to have an online program, it’s going to be really good.
So when I ended the webinar, no different from this webinar, I’ll be able to see really the type of enthusiasm from the staff and professors. I read a lot of testimonials. It was really good. So of course going into the program I had my own mild skepticism, and then after the program, my feeling has been overwhelming positive because for me even though it’s an online program, you can start these programs because you’re busy in our own personal lives, or family, and our coursework, but you know what? I was able to still run my operations, run my training center, work on an ambulance, do 24-hour shifts, and still accompany the coursework I was doing as a full-time student.
Most importantly, being an MPH Online student really has been no different from me being a physical student on the ground because I have the same level of interaction with faculty. Every time I request office hours, they’re talking on the webinars, on the live sessions, I feel like they’re talking to me. In fact, I consider it even more intimate and with the professors, I get the same level of interaction as I would as an undergrad. When I can work with them, when I can do research with them, when I project with them, when I can cooperate with them. That to me is one of the best experiences as an MPH Online student. So my opinion has been overwhelmingly positive after and before it was still positive, but really, it’s really great right now.
Philip: Thank you Michael. Now, I do have another question regarding networking and faculty. How have you been able to engage with your peers and classmates since joining the program? What is your experience with the faculty? What stands out the most?
Michael Pham: So with networking, definitely networking has been strong because of one of the great things about the MPH coursework is even though the work is online, you’re in these live sessions. You have to work as a group. If I have to do a group assignment where you’re kinda just like, “Oh, hey. You do this and I’ll do this and we’ll just upload it.” No, we’re actually meeting, doing live sessions. I actually met with my physical group for all the So Cal people in one of my earlier classes and that was awesome.
So I was able to not only collaborate with them, but everyone comes from different walks of life, you know? I’m working with health professionals, I’m working with other public administration folks, and the networking has been great. In fact, today I have been lucky to really get a lot of great friendships from my MPH coursework too and I hope to work with them in the future because you’re really working with people around the nation, even within your own state, even within your own county, and you never know.
As you graduate as an MPH student, how are you going to collaborate with these people in the future? How can you work together with them? You might see each other on the same side of the fence when you’re doing some type of project together, or both of you join a project together. So the networking has been awesome.
As far as faculty, again what I iterated before has been just phenomenal. From myself being an undergrad, I was so involved on campus and I really believe in the collegiate experience which is developing a relationship with your professors because they’re your friends, your mentors, they’re your colleagues. At USC I was able to do the exact same. So many people such as I had in the past that were very understanding, compassionate, and a lot of professors to me stood out, Dr. Cousineau, Dr. Anamara, Dr. Burke, they’re all very helpful to me. All great professors that I really enjoyed talking with, emailing with. They’re always available.
That’s one of the great things about the MPH program at USC. The professors are available. They wanna be there for you and even though it’s impossible sometimes, they’ll make time for you. So for myself, even working with Dr. Kumar with directed research has been a great honor, a great ambition in working with a faculty member like her and really kind of aligning our global health interests together and collaborating on future projects.
So there’s so may other professors too, epidemiology, biostats, and different fields for all the MPH students. Everyone has a different interest and to know that there are professors there that are as interested as you, you can work with these people and I’m really glad that USC has an open door policy like that, to collaborate and work with faculty. Again, it’s whatever you put in whatever you get out of it.
Philip: Thank you Michael. Now, as far as time commitment, how many hours a week are you dedicating to your studies? Is your investment in the program worth it?
Michael Pham: Yes. Like I said, most of the MPH prospective students work full-time, we got our own things going on, but for myself it really kinda depends on classes. On the average, with two classes being considered a full-time student, you know you have live sessions that are an hour long, maybe two hours a week to be physically sitting down somewhere, right? But I mean, with the curriculum and the coursework, it’s really kind at a pace that’s good for you.
You can study early as long as you reach your deadlines. You can space it out, but for me, let’s just say I was studying or keeping up with my books maybe two hours a day and I’d put in maybe 10 to 20 hours a week, maybe on a hard week when you got projects and midterms and finals, yeah. You’re going to pump it up maybe more than 20 hours, but for me, I was always able to at least, if I dedicate about one to two hours a day, a couple more hours on the weekend, I was able to always maintain a high grade point average and stay relatively up to speed.
Again, there are some classes that, you know, are difficult. For me personally, it’s been awhile since I took stats in undergrad and going through things like SPSS, epidemiology, a lot of novel things too. It’s kind of like it goes over the top of your head. Those require a little more extra studying and for those people that are interested in biostats and epi, they’ll have a good background already so that will be easy for you, but for me, some classes you kinda had to space out. But you know, you always had enough resources to make sure you got that A.
Michael Pham: Sorry, to answer your question was the investment worth it? Yes, it was definitely worth every single ounce of effort. I am very happy as an almost graduating student and I highly recommend the program to other prospective students as well.
Philip: We will try to answer your questions. To submit a question please type it into the Q&A box. Along with myself, enrollment advisor Steven Gutierrez is available to assist you with your questions today. If we don’t get to your question today, one of us will follow up with you directly. In the meantime, the admissions requirements and application deadlines are listed on the following screen. Please reach out to an enrollment advisor with questions about the application process. You will see contact information listed on the next slide or two. Now, our first question is, are there any career placement services available for students. Dr. Kumar, could you answer that?
Dr. Kumar: Sure. Yes, there are career placement services available. USC has a career center which works with all the undergrad and graduate students to help them identify opportunities, work on resumes, practice interviewing skills, etc. So we have excellent career center resources as well as MPH specific resources as far as opportunities for jobs and internships.
Philip: Thank you Dr. Kumar. Our next question is how is the online program different from the campus program? Dr. Kumar, will you answer that again please?
Dr. Kumar: Sure. So both programs have the same admissions requirements, the same degree requirements, you get the same degree when you graduate. We have a similar curriculum in that online we offer four tracks (5 tracks as of September 2016). On campus they do offer additional tracks of study and electives, but online we offer the track in global health leadership, health education promotion, biostatistics and epidemiology, as well as a new track in GeoHealth, which is about spatial analysis applied to public health, which is actually exclusively offered online only. Same faculty teaching the courses, really same program. It’s just a matter of one’s online and one’s on campus.
Philip: Thank you Dr. Kumar. Now, is it the same diploma?
Dr. Kumar: Yes, it is. Absolutely.
Philip: Thank you. Now, we have a question here. Either Michael or Dr. Kumar if you wanted to chime in, what will be some of the online barriers with me? I live in Rochester, New York, which is a three-hour time difference. Will this be an issue?
Dr. Kumar: So we have several students who are on the east coast as well as internationally and they have been able to succeed in the program. The only really time issue is when you have to attend the live sessions. For that reason, we hold them in the evening times. Typically between 5:00 to 7:00 pm Pacific is when faculty will hold their live sessions during the weekday. For east coast that means between 8:00 to 9:00 pm. So we do try to accommodate students living in various time zones because that is the majority of our population. Other than that, you have equally the same access. It’s just the live sessions you’re going to want to be available in the late evenings to participate.
Philip: Thank you Dr. Kumar. Now our next question is how many courses are required per semester? Steven, could you answer that for us?
Steven: Sure. With requirement of courses, a full-time student would be taking two classes in a given semester, typically spring, summer, and fall. This is what would be put them at the pace of earning their degree in two years, but in a given semester a student may choose to take one class and being a part-time student, this is something you’d want to discuss with your student advisor as you progress through the program or in any given semester.
Philip: Thank you Steven. Our next question is, is financial aid available. Steven, could you answer that for us?
Steven: Financial aid is available to those who qualify. You would get started by filling out the FAFSA, the free application for federal student aid as with most of our students is what they do. This is the starting point in that as you progress through the process, of course you can work directly with the financial aid department here.
Philip: Thank you Steven. That is all the time we have. Thank you very much to Dr. Kumar and Michael Pham, and thanks to everyone to participated today. If you have any questions or think it’s time to apply, please reach out to either myself or Steven Gutierrez. Our contact information is on your screen now. A copy of this recording and slide presentation will be available in the following weeks. This concludes today’s webinar. Thank you again and have a great day.
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