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Getting the Most Out of Dornsife

Breauna smiling on market street

September 16, 2019

A first-year MPH student, and veteran student advisor, shares her ideas on how to succeed and really enjoy Drexel.

As an undergraduate at The Lincoln University, Breauna Branch discovered that she enjoyed supporting her fellow students just as much as pursuing her BS in biology at the nation’s first Historically Black College. Now a 2020 master’s in public health candidate at Dornsife (DSPH), Branch is studying epidemiology, but she is already making time to get to know her fellow students and lend a hand.

Branch is a Dornsife Student Ambassador, volunteering her time at admissions events, open houses, student orientation days, and private advice sessions to help prospective students find their way through the admissions process, and find out what it’s like to be at Dornsife. She calms the nerves of students concerned about pursuing their interest in epidemiology. “I make it clear that it is manageable. It’s possible, even with the five quarters [a shorter time frame than most schools].”

“I advise them to just manage their time. It can be challenging with the quarter system. For me, coming from a semester system, it’s very different. It’s a much faster pace than a semester. It was definitely a shock because there’s no time to procrastinate,” Branch adds with a broad smile. “Some prospective students are concerned, because they also want to get involved, but I tell them ‘understand what’s due and plan it out. It will be a little fast, but it’s not something that you can’t handle.' One of the reasons I chose Dornsife is because I can graduate earlier than all of the other MPH graduates in 2020,” she says.

Branch also wants to take advantage of DSPH’s broad opportunities to learn about many aspects of public health. For instance, she’s excited about starting her term as a Dornsife FIRE Fellow, at the school’s Center for Firefighter Injury Research & Safety Trends (FIRST), where she will be analyzing data collected from EMS and fire houses around the city.

“I really want to strengthen the data analysis skills I’m learning in my classes and learn more about the fire service and occupational health,” she says. The FIRST Center conducts fire service injury research, epidemiology, and evaluation.

She is also a Dornsife Public Health Fellow, working as a graduate research assistant with Sharrelle Barber, ScD, MPH, assistant research professor, department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. “Breauna will be assisting me in advancing analysis and manuscripts examining residential segregation, race, and cardiometabolic risk factors in the Brazilian Longitudinal Study of Adult Health (ELSA-Brazil) and compiling multimedia content for the Urban Inequalities and Health Online course which will be offered in winter 2020,” Barber says.

The one thing she does that’s not health focused is relax with one of her favorite pastimes — baking. “I really like to make lemon-glazed, blueberry muffins, cupcakes, and brownies,” Branch says. Her fellow students might be happy to know that she bakes by the dozen and “likes to share because [she] can’t eat 12 cupcakes.”

“If I am stressed, I will also go to the counseling center. I know mental health care has a stigma, but you don’t have to have a mental health condition to go to the counseling center, if you have a bad day, you can go. You have to make sure you are physically, as well as mentally healthy, because graduate school can stress you out.”

To her fellow students she says: “Don't ever be afraid to ask for help.”

This story, written by Courtney Harris Bond, has been adapted from the Dornsife SPH Magazine - Spring-Summer 2019 issue.