Prevention is Key
Executive MPH Program, Prevention Science Track, MPH ’22
“The EMPH program has been unbelievable. It is very interactive and hands-on. Most everything I am graded on are projects and deliverables. It is not about sitting in front of the computer and taking exams.”
Third-year master’s student Christine Doyle Opela, RN, BSN, chose the Rollins Executive MPH program specifically because it has a three-year option. Since Opela is on the three-year track (there is also a two-year option), she takes two courses per semester.
"Since I have a full-time job, that option works best for me," says Opela.
Opela graduated from Elmira College with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and worked as a hospital-based nurse for 25 years. In this role, she regularly felt frustrated that she could only care for the isolated health issue at hand and could not get to the root of the problems for those she was caring for.
In March 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, she was asked to join the communicable disease arm of her local public health department in Mecklenburg County in Charlotte, North Carolina. On the team that manages outbreaks throughout the county, Opela is heavily involved with managing outbreaks, surveillance work, and education for communicable diseases, including COVID-19, within the community.
Inspired to make a larger public health impact, Opela decided to go back to school to gain her MPH and selected the Prevention Science track, which is concerned with the study of effective preventative interventions within systems.
“I am making a significant career pivot with my MPH degree,” says Opela, who balances her Rollins coursework with a 50-hour work week. “I want to shift from clinical work to a role in program and project management with the goal of improving public health systems on the macro level. I am interested in developing sustainable programs to impact whole communities. No one should ever have to make the choice between simply surviving and health. It is difficult to focus on health when you have concerns about food, safety, and stable housing. We need to focus on systems-based solutions.”
She adds, “The EMPH program has been unbelievable. It is very interactive and hands-on. Most everything I am graded on are projects and deliverables. It is not about sitting in front of the computer and taking exams. The readings and learning materials have been engaging and very interesting.”
Although she studies remotely, Opela travels to Atlanta for on-campus weekends and special events, such as the inaugural Rollins Innovation Summit, held this past August 16-27. At the summit, private sector leaders convened on-site at Emory’s The Hatchery, Center for Innovation to train in the applied skills needed to innovate public health solutions within their organizations for social good and business growth. They engaged with Rollins graduate students (who applied to join the summit) to lead them through this journey. Opela had the opportunity to engage with two teams, CARE USA and the Georgia Association of Certified Nurse Midwives. Serving as an Innovation Coach, Opela worked to develop a pilot program and pitch deck for a pain point identified by each of the organizations.
“The summit was a career-altering experience for me. I learned so much. It pulled everything I have learned in my coursework together. The summit also affirmed my commitment to incorporate equity into everything I do,” she says.
Opela is serious when she says her goal with her MPH is to save the world. “What that means to me is having an eye on systems-based transformation. I want to make the biggest impact I can with the time and resources I have.”