Lisa Wehr's Public Health Blog

Lisa is originally from Sigourney, Iowa. She attended Iowa State University and received her bachelor’s degree in Music in 2010. She is currently a first year Master’s of Public Health (MPH) student in community and behavioral health (CBH). Lisa works on the medicine-psychiatry unit at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC). Through this blog Lisa hopes to let people learn about the CBH department.

This student blog is unedited and does not necessarily reflect the views of the College of Public Health or the University of Iowa.

12 October 2011


In the professional sense, that is.

I have heard for years how important relationships/networking/who you know are in life. But since starting college, and particularly since starting graduate school, that point has finally started to hit home.

When I started college as a music major I naively thought that I was going into a field where success was based purely on performance and relationships only mattered once you had the job. I learned very quickly that it was no different than anywhere else. Yes, the ultimate job offer was based purely on performance (in professional orchestras this is achieved by screened auditions, where the auditioners cannot see or speak with the auditionee...they only hear their playing). However, it took some serious networking to be invited to those screened auditions. This was achieved through conferences, masterclasses, lessons with professionals, competitions, and other such activities.

These relationships are just as important in public health. That didn't surprise me as much as the helpfulness of everyone I have worked with in public health. I am currently looking at various ideas for my practicum. I'm not planning on completing it until summer, but I figured an early start gives me more opportunities to find something I am really interested in and more time to figure out the little details. I have done some "cold call" type looking, but the best results have come from asking people I know. Randomly contacting AHECs, researchers, and others often results in somewhat uninspiring responses. Not because they don't want to help, but because you are just one person among many who are probably contacting them and they don't have a personal connection with them.

The best talks/leads I've had so far come directly from people I know. It started by talking with residents on the unit I work in at UIHC. I started here because the integration of psychiatry and primary care is what I'm interested in and many of our residents come from combined internal medicine/psychiatry and family practice/psychiatry programs. This led to mention of a staff doctor who does research and is known to be extremely helpful to interested students. In talking with this doctor we determined that his current work might not be the best fit for what I want to do, but here comes the better part. He knows someone who is currently working on something that appears to be precisely what I'm interested in and he introduced me to her. And the best part? He offered that if things didn't work out with this other researcher he would be willing to carve out something within his research. Wow. I also have some conversations in the works with my nurse manager and the nurse educator for the behavioral health services at the hospital.

My suggestion: ask.

I know it's not easy, and I am one of the worst offenders. I hate asking people for help. I'm always afraid of being a nuisance, getting rejected, or other awful things. But the truth is, most people aren't like that. In fact, I have yet to come across someone who has told me or acted as if any of those things are true. I had trouble asking around about practicums, but the world has not stopped turning, and no one has chewed me out yet. I was afraid to ask a physician if I could interview him for a class project, but when I did he was not just willing, but excited to. And he led me to another physician, saving me from having to make a cold call.

There are never shortages of opportunities to talk and meet new people. Speakers are constantly coming through the college and university, there is a plethora of conferences in the field, and we have an amazing faculty available to us. Make use of it while you're still here.

And don't forget that tomorrow I'm attending the Iowa Rural Health Association Annual meeting and will be tweeting at with hashtag #IRHA11

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