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From Online MPH Student to Infection Control Specialist: Alum Shares Her Route to Landing Dream Role

Ashley Diamond taking selfie at work and at home
Ashley at work and Ashley at home without her personal protective equipment on.

November 6, 2023

A recent graduate of the Dornsife School of Public Health (DSPH) at Drexel University, Ashley Diamond, Master of Public Health (MPH) in Epidemiology and minor in Infection Control ’23, is now working as an Infection Preventionist (IP) at the University of Colorado Hospital in Colorado Springs. While at DSPH, she studied epidemiology and infection control online from her home of Lakewood, Colorado.

We asked about Diamond’s journey as a student at DSPH, why an online program was right for her, and how she's applying her degree and minor studies to her dream job in the field of infection prevention:

Tell us a little about yourself. What did you study at DSPH?

I’m a fresh MPH graduate with a concentration in epidemiology. My undergraduate degree was a bachelor in science in biology, as well as a bachelor in arts in psychology.

I recently started a new job as an Infection Preventionist (IP) at the University of Colorado Hospital in Colorado Springs; the same hospital system I conducted my internship at!

Why did you decide to pursue an MPH and a minor in infection control?

I pursued a graduate degree to open further doors for me in public health, however once I added my minor and took a couple classes specific to my minor, I realized Infection Prevention was what I was most interested in. My degree was put to use to secure a job in infection prevention.

The best part about infection prevention is it includes aspects of epidemiology such as outbreak investigations as well as lots of applied statistics to see trends in hand hygiene data as well as compliance rates in the hospital.

What challenges did you face while working towards your degree? How did you balance your schoolwork with your other responsibilities?

I worked full-time and went to school full-time. Challenges with that included time management and making sure I stayed on top of my coursework, but also securing a job after graduation. If it weren’t for my connections, and my education it would be difficult to secure a job in this field.

I balanced schoolwork with other responsibilities by working on time management and utilizing resources through Drexel, whether it be asking my mentor for guidance or prioritizing certain items accordingly. I also had great mentor support from Thersa Sweet, PhD, MPH, associate professor, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at DSPH, and had great faculty during my tenure that assisted me with any guidance I may have needed.

Was online learning the right choice for you?

Yes, absolutely. An online program allowed me flexibility with work and studying. The courses are set up to go at your own pace. The teachers were very proactive in being there for office hours and support if needed.

Why Drexel? What made this school (and online program) stand out?

Nationwide, the school is ranked #22 out of 206 schools and programs of public health throughout the United States. I also wanted to be a part of a program that had the option of online learning all while being admitted to a school with high rankings.

What was your favorite class?

My favorite class was Microbes in Public Health Practice I & II taught by Esther Chernak, MD, MPH, FACP, clinical professor and director of the Center for Public Health Readiness and Communication, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at DSPH.

This prepared me for applying all my undergrad and graduate studying to case studies. This also propelled me in my Infection Prevention career as we currently deal with dissecting many case studies to classify them as an SSI, a CAUTI or a CLABSI.

What was your favorite interaction with a Drexel faculty member?

My favorite interaction throughout my tenure was with Dr. Sweet. She was and is my mentor, and I still check in. Even though I was an online student we maintained a relationship online and in a different time zone (since I live in Colorado). The best.

Can you share how you’ve applied what you learned directly to your job?

The infection prevention course I took applies directly to the job I’m in right now. The microbes class I took also prepared me for the microorganisms I would be working with in Infection Prevention. Understanding transmission is one of the major skills needed as an IP.

What’s next for you?

Since I secured my dream job, my next steps are studying for my CIC, which is the certificate in infection control.

Learn more about online learning at Dornsife

Learn more about the future of careers in infectious disease