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Dec. 14, 2020

Student view: Reclaiming my future

Jennifer Thompson is graduating this month with her Master’s in public health in the College of Human Medicine.


I returned to my roots in public health after having had a stroke in my 20s and nearly completing a previous Master’s in public health program. To say my confidence was shaken would be an understatement. I had been told that I wouldn’t be able to return to graduate school, but those who know me know that I am stubborn. I wasn’t going to give up on this dream. I timidly started an online MPH program at MSU’s College of Human Medicine in 2017, and I am graduating this December. 

In the intervening years between my stroke and coming to MSU, while working hard to recover deficits, I came to see firsthand the ways that trauma and violence permeate our lives and the havoc that this wreaks on health and well-being. My professional interests shifted from chasing infectious disease outbreaks to addressing and preventing violence and trauma through a public health lens that incorporates individual, community and system components. 

I chose the topics for my course projects during my coursework, and I almost always chose a topic related to trauma, gender-based violence or criminal justice interventions. Especially after this year, I believe that we will be talking more about the role that traumas of all sorts play in health outcomes. These are meaningful conversations, and I am eager to join them. 

I grew academically and personally, beyond my wildest expectations in the three years I spent in the MSU MPH program. I just completed my capstone research project investigating traumatic stress in law enforcement officers and the impact of organizational culture and leadership. One innovative approach to addressing trauma within the criminal justice system, particularly for victims, is highly trained facility dogs. I am currently waiting to be matched with a facility dog of my own and am eager to explore what research and practice opportunities are out there in 2021 for us. 

It’s essential to have a supportive environment and faculty, especially for students who may be overcoming all sorts of adversities. Despite being an online program, I contributed and grew in ways that I never expected when I started. I have served on program committees, have received outstanding mentoring and have been a leader in the founding of the MPH Student Advisory Board, which seeks to foster and cultivate a sense of community through enhanced communication and connection. 

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