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Alyssa Falise

Alyssa Falise

Program: MSPH
Graduation Year: 2017
Post-Graduation Status: Continuing Education
Post-Graduate Program: Ph.D.
Area of Study: Epidemiology
Institution: University of Florida

What motivated you to study public health?

Coming from a family of healthcare professionals, I knew at a young age that I wanted to dedicate my life to bettering the health of others. I was introduced to public health through an introductory course in my undergraduate studies and I realized that I could use my love for numbers and my desire to improve people's health through public health – particularly through epidemiology. It grants me the opportunity to impact communities, rather than individual people, and I love that aspect of public health.

Why did you choose the University of Miami for your public health degree?

I chose to study at the University of Miami for my MSPH because the Department of Public Health Sciences provides its students with so many opportunities to learn and grow as a public health professional. It also provides students with a unique experience because our Miami-Dade population vastly differs from much of the United States, with nearly 20% identifying as Black and 70% identifying as Hispanic. My time at UM allowed me to learn about public health, but it also allowed me to dive in and learn about many cultural and socioeconomic determinants of health that impact the lives of so many Americans in places like Miami.

When and why did you decide to pursue a doctoral degree?

As a student at the University of Miami, I spent many of my days working closely with my professors. They were not only my course instructors; they were my mentors and they taught me a lot about what it means to work in academia. Each day, professors get the opportunity to work on their research, teach courses, and mentor students – which sounds like a dream to me. Since I would like to work as a professor at a research institution, I need to get my doctorate - so I decided to apply one year after I graduated from UM.

How did your master's degree prepare you for your doctoral program?

While I was getting my MSPH, I took many classes that focused on biostatistics and statistical computing - which have been very helpful to me in my doctoral program. Aside from my courses, my experience with professors really helped to prepare me because I had the opportunity to learn so much about research. Not only did I gain some practical skills – such as what goes into study design, how to clean a dataset, and how to administer surveys – but I also learned how to work on a research team to produce work for publications.

How do you plan to incorporate your public health training into your career?

The training I have received in public health has been very valuable and I know that I will incorporate it into my career as a professor. Regardless of the courses I may teach and the research I may do, I fully intend on incorporating the core values of public health - which allow us to promote and protect the health of people in our communities.

What are your long-term career plans/goals?

My long-term goal is to work as a tenured professor at a research institution, where I will be able to teach, mentor students, and conduct research to better the lives of older adults.

What advice do you have for master's students who plan to pursue a doctoral degree?

The University of Miami offers so many great opportunities, so be sure to take advantage of them. There are tons of courses to pick from, but PhD students will benefit from having a strong statistical background, so be sure to enroll for courses that focus on research methods, biostatistics, and computing. Your professors can teach you so much more than they do in the classroom – so be sure to reach out and form a working relationship with them. Not only can you gain a mentor, but you can learn so much about working in academia and how research is conducted. Lastly, be sure to network when you can. The department brings in lots of speakers that are doing groundbreaking work in their fields. If their work interests you, be sure to reach out to them. You never know when your networking will help you in the future.