Mallory Pehm

Master of Public Health

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"I fell in love with public health and with [the Master of Public Health] very quickly! The foundational knowledge you learn during the first semester is really eye-opening and indicative of the breadth of opportunities in this field. "

Mallory Pehm

I decided to study the Master of Public Health after completing a Bachelor of Science at the University of Melbourne. The undergraduate pathway introduced me to a number of postgraduate and career options that I had never heard of, and the broad scope of public health was really appealing to me.

I chose to study the Master of Public Health at the University of Melbourne because of the flexibility in course structure and the amazing teaching staff.

I fell in love with public health and with this course very quickly! The foundational knowledge you learn during the first semester is really eye-opening and indicative of the breadth of opportunities in this field. You are also well-supported to develop core skills in epidemiology and biostatistics which will be useful in almost any of the Master of Public Health specialty streams.

One of the biggest challenges has been narrowing down my subject selection and trying to figure out which areas I am most interested in pursuing. Not having to stick to a particular specialty stream was really useful here!

A highlight of the course for me would definitely have been being able to complete my Professional Practice Unit at the Department of Health and Human Services within the COVID-19 Response team. I was very fortunate to gain invaluable epidemiology and policy experience in the context of a global pandemic. I am also very grateful for the support I received from my fellow students undertaking their PPU’s alongside me, and from the University of Melbourne staff during this immersive experience!

Apart from completing my Professional Practice Unit, I really enjoyed the more practical and skill-based subjects such as ‘Leadership and Management in Public Health’. I found that I was able to take existing issues within my local community and use these as the basis for my assignments. This made the course even more engaging, and encouraged me to design practical, considered health programs and solutions in the same way that I would be required to do in the workplace.

At the beginning of 2020, our learning transitioned to online very quickly. This presented some key challenges around motivation and competing priorities (and the obvious occasional tech issues!), however I really appreciated the quick response by university staff to set up regular check-ins with our faculty staff. We were encouraged to discuss challenges and share tips around navigating online learning during a pandemic, and it was just a great way to stay connected and motivated.

My future careers goals are currently to work in state or nationwide health policy. I still have so many specific topics and areas that I have learned about during the Master of Public Health that I am really interested in, so it’s hard at this stage to narrow it down. I’ve been able to study a lot of core project management, evaluation, policy, as well as research and analytical skills that will allow me to be flexible in my career.

After completing my Professional Practice Unit last year at the Department of Health and Human Services, I remained working there as an epidemiologist within the COVID-19 Response Team. This was a really exciting role, and the core epidemiology and biostatistics skills learned during my Master of Public Health provided a great foundation to build upon throughout my time there.

Towards the end of 2020, I secured a job as a project officer at The Royal Women’s Hospital in the Strategy, Planning, and Performance division. It’s been a bit of a sideways jump across to a new field (Health Service Planning), but I am working on a really exciting project and I’m learning so much about health service planning and health system planning more broadly. The skills I was able to develop via the Master of Public Health around project management, stakeholder engagement, and policy have all been useful in my current role.

My advice to Master of Public Health students is to immerse yourself in the experience! There are many interesting topics and subjects, and many passionate people both studying and teaching the course. It’s okay to not know exactly where you want to end up or exactly what your dream job might be, as there are plenty of subjects that cover core skills rather than specific topics. Speak to staff and connect with other students because everyone is friendly and can offer some great advice!

I’m inspired by the potential to create change at any level – local, state, nationwide, global – that can have lasting and beneficial impacts on the lives of many people. A lot of societal issues today are intrinsically connected to social determinants, and I am inspired by the opportunity to examine issues from that perspective in order to develop effective solutions.

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