In Focus: Nina Scollo '14
Tell us about your background and what let you to be interested in the field of Public Health.
I started my college career at Stony Brook University in 2006. Originally I had hoped to major in Nursing and pursue an RN. To prepare, I took a number of science courses and volunteered at the University Hospital in the pediatric outpatient center. Although I enjoyed learning about health and caring for patients, I found the clinical sector was very rushed, impersonal, and narrow. Sometime during my sophomore year, my focus started to shift to non-clinical. I was getting much more out of my sociology and psychology courses than chemistry and anatomy. I found myself asking “bigger picture” questions about health trends, prevention and long term care, so I entered Stony Brooks Health Sciences program and choose a concentration on public health.
After graduation I worked for a year at the Long Island Association for AIDS care as an educator. That job really validated that public health was the right field for me. Working directly with the community conducting outreach and educational workshops was an ongoing learning experience and I felt I was really making a difference.
What is your current role within the Nassau County Department of Health?
I was thrilled to start working for the Nassau County Department of Health in 2012. I was hired as a social health investigator for the STD/HIV Bureau. However, I have been lucky to participate in many projects department wide. I quickly knew I wanted to make it a career, move up within the department and run my own bureau one day. That is when I decided to pursue my graduate degree.
What made you choose Hofstra University's MPH?
There are not too many MPH programs offered locally and working full time, I thought my only option would be to get my degree online. But I had a lot of reservations. I had never taken online classes before and was afraid I would miss out on the campus classroom experience, and building relationships with my classmates and professors. Luckily I found out that Hofstra was offering a brand new program in Public Health, so I decided to look into it. Everyone I encountered at Hofstra from the MPH directors, financial aid advisors, and graduate admissions representatives were all super helpful in answering my questions and addressing my concerns. Coming from a large university where I felt like a number, Hofstra offered the personal attention and guidance I needed to make this big decision. The campus location is easy to navigate and convenient. All program classes are available in the evening hours to accommodate working students. It was exciting to learn that the program works in conjunction with one of the largest health systems, North Shore LIJ. Faculty hold respected positions in the field and offer their personal experiences to help guide students.
How have you collaborated with peers in the program thus far? Tell us about coursework.
From the first day of orientation I could tell I was going to enjoy this program. The students all come from different academic and professional backgrounds including physicians, administrators, teachers, counselors etc. The class diversity provides an array of perspectives and networking opportunities. The passion and enthusiasm from professors and students makes it an exciting to be a part of.
The coursework is current and relevant. Everyday whether I’m at work, at my doctor’s office, or watching the news, I can reference something I saw in an assigned reading, or heard from one of my classmates. It is truly beneficial to be able to adapt the coursework to real life situations. For me, the knowledge I gain assists me to improve my own health and to be better at my job. When hurricane sandy hit in October 2012, the entire county was faced with challenges. As I worked around the clock at the emergency response center for the DOH, I noticed a lot of what I had been learning that semester coincided with the work I was doing. In the chaos of it all, I found myself thinking back to topics discussed in my classes like health inequalities, health policy and law and infection control. It definitely helped me better handle the unique health concerns that came up.
The program design allows many of the MPH students to take the same classes together and move along in the program as a cohort. It has been great getting to know my classmates. We bounce ideas off of each other; keep one another up to date on current events in the field, and notify each other about things to get involved in. Overall, it’s a great way to develop of network of people with common interests and career goals.
When deciding on a graduate program, it was really important for me to branch out my experience in public health. My work has been strongly focused on STD/HIV for the past three years. I really hoped to widen my scope and get exposure in other areas. Just in my first semester, my classmates and I have already had opportunities to get involved in an assortment of community wide initiatives, collaborate with many community based and non-profit organizations, conduct health related research and work together to come up with our own ideas based on our personal interests in public health.
What is your advice to prospective students looking for a degree in health?
I would tell prospective students to take advantage of the opportunities available and get some experience. Studying at Hofstra, there are many volunteering and internship opportunities can help guide you in the direction you want to go. There are so many paths you can take in the health field. The feeling you get knowing you are helping improve peoples lives, is really rewarding.