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USU Masters in Public Health prepares International Health Specialists

  • Published
  • By Kelley Schlitt
  • U.S. Air Force International Health Specialists
Three 2019 graduates of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences’ Master of Public Health program will serve at U.S. Air Force Air Component Commands as International Health Specialists.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Adam Hebdon, Maj. Cherielynne Gabriel, and Lt. Col. Kristen Soltis-Tyler received their MPH on June 20 and will go on to become IHS team members. As team members, they will ensure bilateral and multilateral health engagements support higher-level strategies of the U.S. Air Force Air Component Commands, the Department of Defense geographic Combatant Command, as well as the National Defense Strategy.

The MPH program prepares students for this role with a concentration in Global Health, providing education in global health principles, program analysis, and systems thinking to enable medical personnel to serve in such positions as strategic advisers and coordinators of global health engagements.

At the 2019 USU Department of Preventive Medicine and Biostatistics graduation ceremony, the Department Chair, U.S. Navy Capt. Mark Riddle, spoke about how their education in public health will provide value in their future work.

“A competent public health workforce cannot be created after an emergency,” said Riddle. “You are often the front line crisis responders. Your training in problem solving, risk communication and leadership in crisis are tools that will help you. Remember these and keep them fresh, and when you are in your next post and handling a crisis situation, dig in, lean forward, and practice it.”

Gabriel said the MPH provided her with a thorough understanding of foundational principles of global health and the tools needed to conduct Global Health Engagement activities, including evaluating and planning.

“As a dentist, you don’t get a lot of joint operations exposure,” said Gabriel. “The MPH [program] expanded my horizons and provided me with the bigger picture of how GHE functions in a joint, inter-agency and multi-lateral environment.”

After their IHS assignments, Gabriel and Hebdon believe that their experience on an IHS team will accelerate their career and enable them to take on a leadership role due to the experience they will gain working in joint and multilateral contexts.

Hebdon emphasized that this opportunity to collaborate with members of other services and partner nation colleagues has opened up a new world of opportunities outside of clinical responsibilities that has provided him with a new perspective and sphere of influence in his career.

“The MPH and IHS experience has enabled me to better grasp the strategic importance of medical security cooperation,” said Hebdon. “The opportunity to work closely with partner nation medical personnel to improve capacity and capability of partner nation medical health systems and find areas of mutual benefit has been especially gratifying.”

For medical Airmen interested in pursuing MPH and IHS opportunities, Gabriel advises to complete all appropriate professional military education as early as possible, as it will provide exposure to GHE concepts. She also says be prepared to be uncomfortable, and understand that being uncomfortable is the best way to learn and grow.

“Remember that as an officer you must be dynamic in your approach to find ways to apply what you know and what you are good at to be a better GHE practitioner and leader,” said Gabriel.

The USU Academic Year 2020/2021 Advanced Academic Degree Application deadline is open. For more information about the MPH program, reach out to your respective Corps Education and Utilization Branch. For more information regarding the IHS program, please visit International Health Specialist page on the Air Force Medical Service website.