Marissa George
Marissa George

In one sentence, what is public health to you?

Public Health means treating the health of populations rather than individuals, and it addresses multiple determinants that influence our health, including social, economic, and environmental conditions.

What inspired you to study public health?  

I became interested in public health because of the multidisciplinary nature of it.  I knew I was interested in health care, but it’s such a broad topic that I wasn’t exactly sure which direction I wanted to pursue, especially because I had such wide-ranging interests, from biology to history to statistics.  Once I learned about the field at the intersection of these concepts, it felt like a natural fit. I was able to draw upon my knowledge and interest in all of these areas and bring them together to help people, which was always my goal.

What do you think is the biggest challenge that the public health field should be focusing on?

At the national and local levels, I think the lack of universal healthcare is our biggest current challenge. So many of our health related problems seem to stem from a very simple issue: access to healthcare. Everything from our health outcomes, to healthcare spending, to lack of focus on preventative medicine would be easier to address if everyone in this country had healthcare. Luckily, I believe this topic is gaining traction, and such a large transition would open up many opportunities for public health interventions and programs at multiple levels, and possibly an overhaul in how we think about public health at all.

Why did you choose public health at UMD?

I was drawn to the passion of the program here at UMD.  I liked the focus on health inequalities, because I think an important part of learning about a field is being able to critically examine failings and flaws in the field as it stands, as it allows a way to help public health grow.

How has your degree program at UMD’s School of Public Health shaped your career goals?

The Behavioral and Community Health degree program included an internship as a way to place a focus on work experience and work-based skills. This is an important step of a degree program, because it gives you actual exposure in the field, and the work preparation leading up to it gave us valuable experience to help prepare us for the job search. The focus on employability, in addition to the concepts we are taught in the classroom, made the degree program really stand out in helping students reach their goals and start their careers.

What person or experience had the greatest impact on you during your degree program?

While in my program, I gained clinical experience working in an Emergency Department, and it ended up having a big impact on me. My experience helped reinforce the importance of treating health on a macro level. I got to witness a number of public health issues from a provider perspective (use of the ED as primary care, treatment of chronic health issues, low levels of health education), but also was involved in the implementation of a new intervention to help address some of these concerns. In doing so, I realized how many people I could affect through public health, and why addressing populations and communities is so important. This truly solidified my passion for the field of public health, so I am very grateful for being able to have such an experience.

How did you get your current position?

I actually found my job through the UMD Career fair! I had done some research ahead of time and selected the booths I wanted to visit, which included my current employer. After talking to the recruiter and reviewing their open positions, I left my resume and then applied to the job online. I heard back quickly about scheduling an interview. A number of the things I had learned from my degree program I feel really helped me stand out as a candidate. For example, I brought along my portfolio to my interview, which was a great jumping off point when discussing some of my past experiences and skills.

What kind of projects do you work on?

I work at a health care consulting firm, so our projects come from a diverse group of clients and stakeholders, including the federal government, state governments, hospitals, and health care foundations. Both of my projects are with CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services), which means my work concerns some of the most vulnerable populations, like Medicaid and CHIP recipients.

 What kind of skills do you use?

Work can vary across the different projects, but I get to use a good combination of quantitative and qualitative skills. My work involves statistical and data analysis of large datasets, mostly using SAS, as well as report preparation and writing, policy background research, and creation of deliverables. My day can include anything from meetings with clients, to team sessions where we brainstorm new ways to look at the data. I have definitely learned a lot since I beg