Student Spotlight - Meet Elizabeth Kimball, a public health student
This feature lets us become better acquainted with the students that use the Himmelfarb library resources on a daily basis. Meet Elizabeth Kimball, a public health student.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, your hometown and why you decided to pursue public health
I was 28 before I knew anything about the field of public health! And it was only because I was hired as a nutrition educator at Public Health - Seattle & King County. Even after working at the Public Health Department for over 13 years, I can still say that I don’t know everything about the field. For example, just recently, I learned that the Environmental Health Division employs inspectors who perform inspections of pet stores to control and prevent zoonotic diseases. I learn new things every day!
With a degree in Biology from the University of Virginia, I considered going to medical school, but decided that I was more interested in preventing people from getting sick in the first place than treating disease. After undergraduate college, I worked in a health food store and had the pleasure of speaking with customers about the importance of eating a healthy diet and being physically active. Those conversations inspired me to become a nutrition educator and ultimately led me down a path to managing the Healthy Eating and Active Living Unit of Public Health - Seattle & King County. I love my job. Through policy, systems and environmental change, I facilitate opportunities for populations disproportionately impacted by the burdens of disease to build healthier communities for themselves. My team leads a variety of projects that impact vulnerable populations in a profoundly positive way. For example, we are working on a project with the King County Somali-American Grocers Association to increase access and appeal of fresh fruits and vegetables in their small ethnic stores. This year, four stores have implemented the Fresh Bucks incentive program where customers can double their SNAP benefits for fruits and vegetables. The stores are in the process of installing grab-and-go style refrigerators to display fresh produce and attractive interior and exterior signs to market the new healthy offerings.
In 2014, after working at the Public Health Department for 10 years, I needed to mix things up a bit and decided that it was time to go back to school. I started the MPH@GW program in the fall of 2014 and I can honestly say that the last three years have been some of the most fulling years of my life.
What brought you to GW?
I grew up in Fall Church, Virginia, so George Washington University was no stranger to me. When I was searching for a graduate school in Public Health, I looked for a program that was reputable and flexible. I compared graduate school programs offered across the country. Some of the variables I compared were the number of credits needed to graduate, cost, on-campus requirements, course offerings and minimum credit hours per quarter. Needless to say, the MPH@GW program rose to the top of the list. The MPH@GW program was the most flexible as students need to complete 45 credits within 4 years without ever having to travel to D.C. As many students in the online program do, I am taking classes while working full time and raising a family. Program flexibility and minimal travel were paramount in considering where to go to school. I’m nearing my last quarter of school and I’m incredibly grateful for having found a program where I can still have time to work and be a mom.
Are there any special/memorable research or special projects you have participated in while at GW?
The most memorable research project while in the MPH@GW program is the first paper I wrote for the 6001 Biological Basis of Disease in Public Health in 2014. I graduated from college in 1997, which meant that the last research paper I wrote was 17 years prior! Back then, the internet was still new. In order to do research for a paper, I would go to the library, search the Medline database, find the actual journal in the library stacks and make photocopies of journal articles to do my research. When I learned that I would need to write a paper and do research using the internet, I was terrified. I didn’t even know where to start. I completely forgot how to do citations or reference lists. I forgot the difference between primary and secondary sources. After taking a deep breath, I oriented myself to the Himmelfarb databases. I installed RefWorks on my computer and made my way through the tutorials. And guess what? I submitted my paper and then took a sigh of relief when I earned an A!
What's been the most unexpected, surprising or challenging experience as a GW student?
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the students and professors in the MPH@GW program. I suspected that the online program would attract people from all over the world and I was right. But, I’m always surprised when on the first day of class people share that they are joining from places like Africa or the Middle East. I feel honored to be in a class full of incredibly bright and experienced students from all walks of life. In almost every class, there is at least one doctor, nurse, pharmacist, lawyer, public health service corps member or veteran. The professors are equally accomplished and provide a high-quality learning experience.
As you reflect on your time at GW, can you share a favorite Himmelfarb Library memory or experience you found to be the most useful?
As an online student, I have never actually seen the Himmelfarb Library! My experience has been limited to the library website and the “Ask a Librarian” feature. Recently, I had the pleasure of working with Gisela Butera on learning how to perform a systematic literature review. Gisela invited me to a WebEx meeting, which allowed us to share our computer screens with each other. Watching Gisela show me the steps of inputting search terms into SCOPUS was very helpful in getting me started on my Culminating Experience. She provided tips and tools that will make the systematic review process so much easier. Thank you, Gisela!
What are your future plans after GW?
After I graduate in December 2017, I have a feeling that I will feel a bit lost with all the extra time I have on my hands. I suspect that I will spend the first month after graduation addressing the housework that I’ve neglected for the past three years while being in school. But more importantly, the MPH@GW program has made me feel more competent and confident as a public health practitioner. With my new knowledge and skills, I will bring what I’ve learned to my position at Public Health - Seattle & King County to share with others. I also hope to one day attend the American Public Health Association conference as a presenter.
When you are not studying - What are your hobbies, interests or special things you like to do during your down-time?
When I’m not studying, I’m usually cheering for my daughters as they compete in swimming and soccer competitions. I also seem to spend a considerable amount of time doting on my adorable cat, Quinn, and dog, Charlie. And believe it or not, I do find time for myself sometimes. I like to go on long walks through the forest near my house or workout while listening to loud dance music.