Jessica Hanson

Describe your career path since graduating from the UI College of Public Health.
I am currently an Associate Scientist in the Center for Health Outcomes and Prevention Research at Sanford Research in Sioux Falls, S.D. I conduct research and evaluation projects on a variety of maternal-child health projects, the main one being the Oglala Sioux Tribe CHOICES Program, which aims to reduce risk for alcohol-exposed pregnancies in non-pregnant American Indian women.

How did working with the PRC as a student help prepare or inform you for your current job?
The PRC helped me gain additional experience in qualitative research, as well as in recruiting and quality assurance techniques to ensure data is collected and entered appropriately.

What’s the most important thing you took away from your time working with the PRC?
While I’d had experience working in rural and reservation areas, my time working with the PRC was vital in helping me learn skills related to public health programming, including theoretical aspects of prevention, evaluating public health programs, and including the community in developing health priorities.

What’s one of the most satisfying aspects of your work in public health?
The most satisfying aspect of my work in public health is working with my community partners and developing, implementing, and evaluating public health programs. I love coming to work every day and traveling to meet with my community partners.

What do you think current students should know about the value of working with faculty and research projects like those affiliated with the PRC?
Working with faculty and research projects within the PRC will give you experiences working in rural health that are hard to come by, as working in rural areas is challenging (yet rewarding!). The faculty affiliated with the PRC will give students unique opportunities to experience a variety of projects related to rural health.

What would you tell students about the value of working on community-based research or rural health?
Community-based research with rural communities is one of the most rewarding areas a public health student can go into. Rural communities are faced with a variety of health-related disparities, including access to preventive health care. Public health programs are the way to address health disparities in rural communities, and there are so many unanswered questions and areas to focus on. If you want a lifelong research career, rural health is definitely an area to focus on.