January 27, 2022
"I get to engage in work that I actually care about and I don’t think there’s anything more rewarding than that."
Public Health Sciences alumna Mackenzie Varieur '21 is working on the front lines of public health as she participates in the Public Health Associates Program (PHAP) with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). PHAP is a 2-year program that provides hands-on public health experience in a wide range of public health settings. It pairs associates with host sites across the country and in U.S. territories in order to support public health endeavors within rural, local, tribal, and state government and non-governmental organizations.
Varieur’s host site is the City of Nashua Division of Public Health and Community Services in Nashua, New Hampshire. "I am currently working with my supervisor to launch an online community health improvement plan (CHIP), which is an action plan of priority goals and objectives that address the most pressing health issues in the community such as chronic disease and behavioral health/substance misuse,” she explains.
Getting into the Public Health Associates Program was no easy feat. “The PHAP application process is pretty lengthy and involves a few steps over a period of several months, including a personal statement and an interview.”
Varieur credits the SPHHS Office of Career Planning in part for her success. “SPHHS has a wealth of resources that really allowed me to get the feedback I needed to prove myself to be a competitive candidate for the program. I especially want to give a massive shout out to Joanna Miles, who is the Assistant Director for Career Planning! She is truly a rock star and provided much-needed guidance and feedback while I was in the interview stage of the application process.”
In addition to assisting in the creation of health plans for the community, Varieur is experiencing first-hand what it is like to work in public health during the COVID-19 pandemic. “The experience of working in public health during the COVID-19 pandemic has been tireless, eye-opening, and humbling. It is so inspiring to work with people that are sincerely dedicated to protecting and promoting the health and wellbeing of all members in our community. This is not an easy time by any means to be in public health, but it is also one of the most fulfilling. At almost every vaccination clinic I’ve been a part of, I’ve had people come up to me and thank me and other people in our team for being able to make these events possible.”
“One moment that really stood out happened at a walkthrough for one of our booster clinics. One of the clinic leads gathered us together and told us that the most important thing we need to remember is that, no matter what, we are here to make sure that we can serve every person that walks through the door. It was so powerful to me because it really encapsulated the importance of public health – every vaccine, every community event, every program – they all help to make a difference.”
As Varieur explains, this experience has had a profound impact on her. "I am truly able to see the importance of public health from the ground up, from the local to the federal level. I get to network and collaborate with some of the most brilliant minds in the public health field while also gaining incredibly valuable and formative first-hand experience in essential public health skills and competencies."
Applications to the CDC’s PHAP are open through January 31, 2022. Learn more or apply here.