Launching a Public Health Career

Jan 19, 2022

Recent UMD graduate secures a spot in a selective training program.

UMD public health program alum Sadie Shervheim is gaining valuable hands-on experience through a two-year training program based within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Public Health Associate Program (PHAP) assigns recent college graduates to work with CDC-affiliated public health organizations on real-life issues. Previous associates have worked on projects focused on everything from laboratory guidance to Ebola.

Shervheim was placed with the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) in Denver, Colorado. Her current assignment is to explore body art initiatives and policies. Body art is defined as “tattooing, piercing, branding, scarification, and cosmetic tattooing.”

“It’s a really interesting field,” Shervheim says. “It’s also super under-regulated, so we’re working to create policies that help ensure the safety of body artists and clients.” She’s been able to work directly in the field, gaining valuable hands-on experiences through committees and training.

The opportunities are innumerable, as long as you’re open to them. “You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable. You have to be okay knowing that you’re not going to know everything,” Shervheim says. “You never know where it will lead you.”

Sadie Shervheim headshot

Associate Professor and Public Health Program Coordinator Amy Versnik Nowak encouraged Shervheim to apply to PHAP. The application process is quite intense: Shervheim began her application in December 2020 and did not hear of her admittance until August 2021. But she believes it’s completely worth the wait. “It’s an awesome opportunity, especially right out of college. You’re able to jump right in and use what you’ve learned, and they know you’re not going to know everything. They really help you kickstart your career,” Shervheim states.

Only a fraction of those who apply to PHAP are accepted. There are two rounds of written review prior to receiving an interview. “The biggest thing you can do for your application is write and review,” advises Shervheim. “Then write and review it again and have other people look at it.”

For any public health majors interested in PHAP, Shervheim recommends getting involved during their undergraduate studies, and jumping right into the major. “Join the student groups, volunteer in the community, and really get connected,” she says. “The public health community is so tight-knit.”

She does caution students to only get involved with activities they’re excited about. “If you’re not interested in what you’re doing, if you’re not passionate, you’re not helping yourself … the things you’re actually passionate about will open doors in your future.”

This story was written by UMD student Erika Doetkott, who is majoring in Communication Sciences and Disorders. Erika assists Lissa Maki with communications for the College of Education and Human Service Professions.