Autumn Durfey

Major: Biology (pre-med emphasis)
Year of Graduation: 2007

Graduate School: University of Minnesota School of Public Health, Master's in Public Health in the Division of Environment Health with an interdisciplinary perspective in global health, May, 2013. Following graduation in May, I will be attending Samuel Merritt University, Oakland, CA for my Master of Physician Assistant Studies.

Please give a brief description of your current position:
I work as a graduate assistant for the University of Minnesota School of Public Health under the division of global health. I am a teaching assistant for the PubH 6131, Working in Global Health.

Previous position: I worked as a microbiologist for Boston Scientific (BSC) in St. Paul, MN.  BSC is a medical device manufacturer and I worked specifically in the cardiovascular and endoscopy division. While at BSC, I split my time between the Minnesota location and the Miami location, which allowed me to gain more experience in the field of microbiology from many different perspectives.

What path did you follow to arrive at your current job?
I arrived at my current position through connections I made in my graduate program. I want to pursue a professional career in global health, so the opportunity to TA for a course focused on working in a global setting, was a great chance for me to learn and refine my skills.

What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?
I would suggest that students shadow or talk with professionals in fields that seem interesting to them. I found out about the public health profession through a former St. John's graduate. Networking is key to not only gaining job and career opportunities, but also is a great life skill to have.  Use Career Services at CSB/SJU to enhance your networking skills and really understand what "networking" is all about. I would also suggest finding a mentor or someone whose skills you admire and appreciate that is willing to share their worldly knowledge with you. I believe a mentor is extremely important to have during the early phases of education or a professional career as this individual can provide on-the-ground knowledge and advice.

What skills are important in your field?
Communication skills, management skills, having an ethical understanding and foundation, adherence to detail, persistence, data analysis skills (SAS, STATA, GIS), knowledge of the health care system, knowledge of policies and policy-implementation, ability to interpret and critique scientific data and articles, networking and being optimistic.

What is the most satisfying/rewarding part of your job? Most challenging?
The most satisfying part of the public health arena is being able to work with the underserved population. Although data collection and analysis and policy implementation are a large part of public health, I really enjoy working with people and having a direct impact on their well-being. In the year and a half that I've been in public health, I've had the opportunity to do research on the island of Mfangano, Kenya for the summer. This past winter, I went to India to do research in the slums of Mumbai. The opportunity to interact and work with so many different cultures and people has been an incredible and enriching experience. The most challenging part of the public health field is managing and accepting that my career is always an uphill battle. I love challenges though, so I'm excited for the climb!

What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career?
The coursework and academics at CSB/SJU prepared me for the rigors of graduate school. The extra-curricular activities I participated in have helped me with the interaction, communication, and mediation side of my profession.  I have taken my experiences from the cross-country team to the Peer Resource Program (PRP's) and utilized them in one way or another during my path towards professionalism.  My advice to all students is to focus and study hard, but make sure that you get your hands wet in other aspects of the whole college experience. The skills and experiences you gain in extra-curricular activities are the skills that you will remember and use forever. I would advise students to be involved as they can in groups or activities that they find meaningful. Finding joy in life is doing what you love to do and sharing it with others.

(February 2013)