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Student Profile: Kellen McDonald, MPH/MSN ’24, Social and Behavioral Sciences (YSPH), Family Nurse Practitioner (YSN)

August 10, 2022

Why did you choose the Yale School of Public Health?

Yale offers a unique joint-degree program where I can earn my master’s in public health while simultaneously training to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). As a future health care provider, I wanted the ability to consider the social factors that contribute to individual and community health outcomes when assessing and treating patients. The curricula at YSPH and YSN focus on the harmful role of structural racism in the social, political, and economic fabric of our society through the lens of advocacy and justice. The joint-degree framework models my ideal approach to patient-centered and culturally competent care. YSPH offered me a scholarship that made the decision to attend even easier.

What were you doing before enrolling at YSPH?

I worked for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the Public Health Associate Program. My primary field assignment was Minneapolis, Minnesota, where I collaborated with public housing residents on community-driven strategies for chronic disease prevention and management. During the pandemic, I was deployed to support the CDC’s COVID response in quarantine centers and congregate settings in Detroit, Miami, Arkansas, and Chicago.

What are your favorite aspects of the YSPH academic program?

The deep and meaningful connections I’ve made across Yale are undoubtedly the highlight of the program. I came to Yale during the early phases of the pandemic, not expecting to have many opportunities to build community while social distancing and attending online classes. However, I found that YSPH courses are practice-oriented with small class sizes, where each student is invested, and interdisciplinary networks are quickly established. The unique experiences and enthusiasm of my peers, professors, and advisors cultivate contagious energy around the issues we are each passionate about.

What was your most impactful experience outside of class?

For my Applied Practice Experience (APE), I got to return to Camp Jabberwocky, a residential summer camp on Martha’s Vineyard for people of all ages with and without disabilities. My internship consisted of helping develop and implement the camp’s comprehensive COVID-19 Operations Plan, which successfully prevented COVID-19 transmission for the entire eight weeks Camp Jabberwocky was in session. Taking the expertise I gained from COVID roles at the CDC and the programmatic skills I refined at YSPH back to a community I am so passionate about was incredibly fulfilling.

Do you have a favorite Yale place or New Haven food?

I love taking a walk down Hillhouse Avenue and grabbing coffee at the Jitter Bus on my way to a meeting or a study session.

What do you hope to do after graduation?

I’m hoping to work at a federally qualified health center as a primary care provider. After a few years as a full-time clinician, I want to use my public health skillset more directly to work on systems-level strategies to advance health equity by developing programs or getting involved in clinic management.

Submitted by Fran Fried on August 08, 2022