This month, we are spotlighting Ben Williamson, a senior Health Sciences major from Hugo, MN, who is on the Health Services Management track. This year, Ben is participating in our partnership with Des Moines University in their Master of Public Health (MPH) degree. Ben will graduate in May with is Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences degree from Drake and one full year of MPH coursework complete!
I am currently enrolled in the Master of Public Health (MPH) program at Des Moines University, and through Drake I was able to start taking graduate classes during my senior year of my undergraduate degree. Throughout my undergrad, I bounced around between different career paths, but always seemed to return to Public Health. My advisor was great throughout this process. At one point, I had decided to pursue the OTD degree through Drake. I registered for classes that would help me pursue OT and was ready to go, but a trip to Uganda that summer with Drake students and faculty introduced me to a totally new perspective. My work with a local clinic on my trip to Uganda drew me back to public health. Thankfully, Drake was really accommodating and I was able to change my course schedule in order to be on track to graduate and pursue public health.
My favorite memory from my academic experience was being able to take a few core classes with the same group of people throughout my undergraduate career. It has been so helpful to make friends that you can grab a coffee with and talk about job searches, research, or any of the other things running through your mind.
Some of the best research and experiential learning opportunities I’ve had have been thanks to Drake University. My first year at Drake, I was introduced to research when I was connected with a pharmaceutical company representative that I worked on new drug research with through a local hospital. As part of my search for a capstone project, I was also placed alongside clinic management in a downtown clinic with a high daily patient intake. Just before I began that project, I also interviewed for a position with the Iowa Department of Public Health through a connection I had made with another health sciences student and a recommendation from my advisor. Finally, to finish up my undergraduate work, I began my research project with a major health system in Des Moines, which has been some of the most challenging and rewarding work I’ve done so far. We are planning to present at multiple conferences over the coming months!
A few of the things that I’ve most appreciated about my time as a health sciences major at Drake were some of the more specialized courses I was able to take that really helped me prepare for my career path and feel confident about what I was doing at work. One course had a specific unit on communicating with patients via an interpreter, and now my office usually looks to me when we have to interview a patient that prefers to communicate in a language other than English. I have also enjoyed being able to meet all of the different faculty and learning about their various areas of specialization. When I work on a research project and run into a problem or have a question about a project I’m working on, I know at least two or three professors I can ask for advice!
I am most proud of being able to attend graduate school for public health and graduate a year earlier than most of my peers! Thanks to Drake’s 3+2 program, I will be ready to use my graduate degree a year after I finish my undergrad.
Drake has prepared me for my career by connecting me with members of the Des Moines community that share my professional interests and through courses that prepare me for public health. Whether I was doing research with all four of the major health systems in Des Moines, or being connected with internship opportunities at the Iowa Department of Public Health, when it was time to find internships and jobs I had more than enough connections to find something I really liked.
My biggest lesson from this experience would be that connections are extremely valuable. I’m realizing now that the connections I’ve made during my time at Drake are the reason that I am able to pursue a career that I love, explore novel ideas through research, and even dream big when it comes to looking at ways to carry the outcomes of our research years into the future. My connections and research experience were so thorough that when I met my graduate school advisor for the first time, I was introduced to a paid research opportunity with their team.
For future students, I would say the number one thing you can do during your time at Drake is take advantage of all the connections you make while you’re here. There are so many fascinating individuals with connections all over Des Moines, and there is no interest that is too specific or out of reach for faculty and staff to connect you with. Additionally, Des Moines has an abundance of professional opportunities that you don’t have to wait until you graduate to take advantage of.