In Focus: Christine Hickey
What led you to be interested in the field of community health?
I grew up in Farmingdale and have lived on Long Island all my life. I attended Hofstra University for my undergraduate education and graduated in May 2009 with a double Bachelors of Arts in Biology and Psychology. Starting at a young age, I was exposed to the health field through family member’s illnesses. I was too young to understand the biology and physiology behind their diseases but I was old enough to recognize the relationships they had with their doctors and nurses and specialists. I could appreciate the importance these professionals played in their care and I sought to provide that same care myself. In high school, after I had learned the basics behind biology, psychology, and sociology, I decided I wanted to be a doctor.
In my senior year of college, I was struggling to decide if medical school was really for me. I took time to review my options, review my applications, and explore other fields. I took an interest in community health when I finally decided that, yes I wanted to make the commitment to medical school, but I also wanted to learn how to connect to and understand patients on a more specific level. The purpose of medicine is not only to treat those who are sick, but to prevent sickness in those who are well, for a degree in medicine is futile if one does not work towards precluding what he or she is faced with on a day to day basis. The knowledge I have gained through the Community Health Program will allow me to tailor my treatments to the specific populations I will be serving.
What made you choose Hofstra University's M.S. in Community Health?
I had done my undergraduate work at Hofstra University and I was very comfortable with the professors, the community, and the Hofstra lifestyle. As a future medical professional, I valued Hofstra’s Community Health program because it looked to teach students about all aspects of community health, including topics of health and wellness, disease mechanisms and transmissions, epidemiology, law, mental health, bereavement, advocacy, and program implementation.
What kinds of activities/internships/employment were you involved with outside of the program?
While working on my master’s degree, I was a graduate assistant to an Associate Dean of University Advisement during the week. I worked mainly with undergraduate and post-baccalaureate pre-health students who were working towards completing their prerequisite course work. On the weekends I held a job as a medical office assistant in a pediatrics office on Long Island. As part of my requirements I completed an internship in the field of community health. I choose to work at the Hofstra Health and Wellness Clinic because by that time, I had spent almost 10 years working in pediatrics and wanted to work with an older age group with different sets of needs and concerns.
In my free time I maintained my personal commitments to my local American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. The Relay for Life provides a great opportunity for people in the community to get involved and spread cancer awareness. I’m particularly fond of Relay for Life because it doesn’t focus on one particular cancer but many, and it celebrates the stories and achievements of those who have successfully fought disease and honors and remembers those who we unfortunately lost too soon.
How did the program lend itself to your medical school search?
I am currently a second year medical student at NYIT-College of Osteopathic Medicine. I always knew that I wanted to go into medicine – my degree in Community Health was a supplemental study to my long term goal of attending medical school. The all encompassing curriculum of the Community Health program helped me choose an osteopathic medical school as well. Learning to understand patients and their illnesses means understanding people as a whole – that means where they come from, their community exposures, their family structure, their preferences for care, their accessibility to health care, and their cultural norms. Understanding the interrelationship between your surroundings and your health mirrors the principles of osteopathic medicine.
What are your long-term professional goals?
I look forward to a future career in medicine. My current interests lie in the field of emergency medicine. Today the emergency department is utilized as not only a place for emergent care but also, for some people, a place for primary care. I plan on utilizing my master’s degree in Community Health to help me maximize my treatment plans for my patients as I slowly learn about the community I will be working in.
Did you find mentors in the Department of Health Professions?
Certain professors made lasting impacts on the way I now view health care. Professor Sullivan and Professor Hackett taught me a great deal about the inner workings of establishing community programs in areas of greatest need. Before their classes, my knowledge of health care was limited to treating disease. They taught me how to understand a community beyond the disease. They made me question: Why is the disease there? Why is it so prevalent? What keeps it from being managed properly and why are patients not receiving better care? Only after understanding these components can you learn how to treat people properly. Professor Harriet Vogel also deserves recognition. Her class on Bereavement and Death Issues helped me get more in touch with the “human” side of health care. She teaches you to look past your own views and beliefs so that you can fully understand what someone else is going through during a very hard time.
What is your advice to prospective students looking for a degree in health?
Really do your research and look into your options and the different fields of health. Taking on a degree in the health care field, be it in community health, health administration, medicine, counseling, etc., be sure that this is what you really want. By taking that step you are saying that you are going to spend the rest of your working life dedicated to making things better for others in a time when political and social policy sometimes makes it difficult to see the joy in your chosen career. You will meet roadblocks, you won’t always be appreciated, and you certainly won’t always be happy with the limited resources you have to work with. But at the end of the day, if the health field is where you are meant to be, you will be able to look past these things and be completely satisfied with the work you have accomplished and the communities you are impacting.