How a Master of Public Health Clarified One Alumna’s Career Path

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Adrianna Boulin’s first impulse has always been to help.

Boulin, a 2016 graduate of Northeastern’s Master of Public Health in Urban Health, always believed she would be a doctor when she grew up. Not only did she dream about it, she worked diligently toward her goal—eventually majoring in biology as an undergraduate student at Emmanuel College.

Her desire for service continued to evolve. While still in high school, Boulin founded JAMAKIN ME SMART, Incorporated, which provides school supplies and “encourages the positive self-development” of ambitious Jamaican children. She was inspired to start the nonprofit after seeing how expensive and out of reach basic school supplies were to the average family in Jamaica, where she spent summers and part of her childhood.

Two trips to South Africa and Swaziland in 2011 and 2013 changed the course of her career, but not her interest in human health and wellbeing. “[After traveling] I realized I wanted to capture a different part of health: I wanted to be a part of interventions and of making change, so I felt better suited to be a public health practitioner than a physician,” Boulin says of her experience.

Boulin chose the Master of Public Health in Urban Health program because she loved Northeastern’s overall innovation and diversity, and the program’s marriage of her twin interests in international affairs and health science.

“When I looked at the course catalog, I loved all the classes—they seemed so relevant,” Boulin says. “Plus you had the opportunity to mold your program and your experience, and I really appreciated that.”

Boulin had the opportunity to participate in experiential learning through a capstone project. The capstone provided students the opportunity to develop or take on projects of mutual interest to a public health agency and the student in a range of diverse public health practice settings reflective of a particular urban health focus.

Boulin knew she wanted to complete her capstone project internationally, preferably in Jamaica. Her discussions with Northeastern Associate Professor Dr. Richard Wamai and Shan Muhammed, director of the Master of Public Health in Urban Health program, led her to the perfect solution for her goals and interests.

“[For my capstone], I examined the acceptability of male circumcision in Jamaica and Kenya, and it was a fantastic experience. It really helped me in the work that I do now,” explains Boulin, who currently works as a research assistant at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Boulin calls Northeastern’s faculty “a host of knowledge,” and appreciated being able to tap into their expertise for guidance and clarity.

“If I had an interest in a particular area, I could find an instructor or faculty member with experience in that field and email them,” she says. “And they would actually respond to me in a timely fashion and put me in the direction I wanted to go. I always felt supported.”

Since many of the program’s faculty members are also physicians and other professionals with full-time jobs outside of Northeastern, they were able to bring a real-world perspective to their teaching—something Boulin enjoyed about her Northeastern experience.

“Their experience brought the learning full circle for us, which was so important because we got to see how relevant our classroom learning was to the next steps of life,” she says. “So just being able to bridge the academic bookwork that we did with the actual work that I’m doing now was great.”

Boulin recommends the Master of Public Health in Urban Health to anyone interested in the public health field. Multi-disciplinary and transferrable to a variety of fields, the program can pave the way for careers in business, finance, and healthcare.

“That’s why I loved the MPH program,” Boulin says. “I don’t like being idle, and always doing the same thing. So the fact that I can change and do whatever I want to do but still be doing public health is really attractive to me. My MPH degree is still manifesting itself—it’s a process and a trajectory. At this point in the journey I feel like I’m more of an efficient worker, and I know exactly what I want to do.”