Student Spotlight: Elijah Christian
In our Student Spotlight feature, students working with or honored by the Institute are highlighted. Elijah Christian is an MPH candidate with the Department of Health Services, Policy & Management in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina. He is completing his residency requirements by working with the SCale Down Initiative.
Hometown: Columbia, South Carolina
School: University of South Carolina (USC)
Major: Health Services, Policy & Management (HSPM)
Degree pursued: Master of Public Health
Expected Graduation: December 2017
How did you become interested in public health/medicine?
Thanks to the requirements of my high school magnet program, I came to USC with a full semester’s worth of credits from taking AP classes, so I had the option to either graduate early or declare a minor. As an exercise science major, I had taken a few Public Health classes that I thoroughly enjoyed, so I decided to research opportunities for minors in that field. The first minor I came across was HPEB (Health Promotion, Education and Behavior) which I instantly fell in love with, as it gave me a greater exposure to the field of Public Health, and an introduction to a new way of thinking about population health. It was because of the minor that made me shift my focus from physical therapy to public health.
What areas of public health/medicine are you most interested in and why?
I am most interested in quality management, partly due to the experience I have gained working as a graduate assistant on campus in the student health center. Over the past year I have worked in the quality improvement department, and have grown to really enjoy the process (although tedious at times) of working to ensure that the facility is offering the best quality services in the most efficient manner. I also enjoy working hands on to alleviate problems, improve procedures, and see how the changes I helped create benefit the organizations as a whole.
Aside from quality management I also enjoy community programming/developing and management. I think there is great deal to learn about population health from the community members you are looking to serve as a public health professional. I like the idea of working with community members to develop programs best suited for the community, working to develop the programs and create sustainability by managing the process and empowering the community members to feel confident enough to continue the programs on their own.
What are your future plans?
With December graduation quickly approaching, I am currently applying for several administrative health management fellowships both in North and South Carolina as a means to increase the real-world experience I have in working/serving as a health administrator or manager. In terms of other options, I am looking to secure my first full time job in the public health/health care sector; whether that be in a management role, administrative services, community organizing or policy, I am just looking to acquire as much experience in different areas as possible.
If you weren’t studying public health, what would you study?
Prior to choosing Public Health as my career path, I thought I wanted to pursue physical therapy, and even earlier than that I thought I wanted to go into biomedical engineering. Looking back, I don’t think either of these careers would have been for me, but if I had to choose, I think I would lean more towards studying political science. Although politics can be overwhelming, in another life, I think that I could see myself becoming a politician advocating for public health.
Who do you consider your mentor/greatest inspiration and why?
My greatest inspiration has always been my Grandmother, Rosa Lee Roberts. Although we may not be in the same career path, I have not looked up to her because of the work she does, but because of the person she is. For as long as I can remember, my Grandmother has always been one to care for others, spread joy and positivity and support not only her family but anyone who asks or is in need of help. Any time I visit my Grandmother in North Carolina and I meet the people she lives in the community with, and goes to church with, they instantly begin to smile and have nothing but positive things to say about her. I think her positive outlook on life, and her desire to help others is part of the reason I have a passion for public health. I think I can use my personality, combined with the material I have learned over the past 5 years to positively influence public and community health in ways beyond textbook measures.
When you aren’t studying or working, what are your favorite activities?
When I’m not studying or working I enjoy listening to music, watching basketball games, trying new restaurants, traveling and spending time with my girlfriend.