Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) and Portland State University (PSU) School of Public Health

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Field experience

Checking on Health Policy

Checking on health policies

The first lesson Jwan Mohammadi learned from her “field experience” in the real world of public health was this: Some projects just aren’t going to move as fast as you think they might.

Jwan graduated in December 2016 with a Master of Public Health degree in Health Policy and Management. She now works for the VA Portland Health Care System.

In September 2016, Jwan began her School of Public Health field experience assignment with the Oregon Health Authority. Her job was to design an assessment plan to examine how Oregon schools and school districts were implementing state and federal school health policies and to help them overcome any barriers to implementing the policies.

To do that, she needed to design a survey and figure out how to distribute the survey to more than 60 officials at schools and school districts across the state. She needed to help the health authority figure out which policies and issues it should be asking about. Everyone understood that a successful survey couldn’t be too long, so she also needed to determine the most important issues and questions to include on the survey.

“There were 80 policies we could have assessed,” she says. “We got it down to five.” The survey asked nine questions about those five overall policies. But, in needing to get input from a wide range of people, it took awhile to get to those final nine questions, Jwan says.

“I was surprised at how long things take and at the number of unforeseen issues that we needed to resolve to be successful,” Jwan says about the difference between real world public health and the public health classroom. “But I was also surprised at how cooperative people can be when you ask them for their input. A big part of my role was stakeholder engagement, including people’s input into the project.”

Jwan says Oregon Health Authority staff members were also very supportive, continually giving her guidance and resources.

Jwan says her field experience solidified the direction she’d like her career to take: to focus on health disparities in rural communities in Oregon.

The real world work was often very different from the more theoretical concepts of public health classes, Jwan says. Still, she was impressed with how she was able to use in her job what she had learned in many of her classes.

“You really do see how all of your classes come together,” she says. “Maybe not everything from every class, but you get bits and pieces of everything and it all kind of comes together.”