We have all heard the phrase “time flies,” but man does it! Lately, we have found ourselves asking “where did the year go?” As first--almost second year--fellows, this question has forced us to pause and reflect on the ups, downs, and everything in-between. Over the span of this seemingly fast-paced year, we have gained insight intothe interdisciplinary and multi-sectoral world of public health, become more intimately acquainted with the communities we serve, and grown as public health professionals. Therefore, as the first year fellows get ready to jump into year two, we wanted to share some insight with the upcoming cohort and give others a snapshot of how the fellowship encourages growth and stimulates learning in the first year.
What tips do you have for incoming fellows?
My tip for first years would be to be vocal about what sounds exciting (or not) to you! If you learn about an initiative at your placement that sounds really interesting, ask about what you might be able to contribute. More likely than not, they will be grateful for your enthusiasm and contributions.
I found it helpful to make a short list of what I want out of the fellowship. This meant prioritizing Core Activities of Learning (CALs) and thinking about areas I’d like to improve on. I have this list in the back of my mind and think about it often when taking on new projects. Knowing what you want is the first step to thinking about how to get where you need to be at the end of the fellowship. It sounds very Stephen Covey, but “beginning with the end in mind” has been helpful for me.
I learned that the fellowship community--particularly the staff-- are on your side. They want you to fully explore the world of public health and find your fit. Make a wish list that includes everything you would like to do over the 2 years, no matter how extreme the items may seem. The fellowship staff, faculty, and other fellows are great at helping you figure out how to get the experience/skills that you want and need.
Try to temper expectations about how quickly you will feel integrated into the work. Learning the organization and projects takes time, but you'll get there! Eventually you will feel ownership over your work, and in the meantime-- fake it til you make it! Show up, offer your time and effort, and show interest. Soon enough, everyone will be asking for your ideas and input.
What opportunities should fellows take advantage of during the first year?
Think outside of the box and take advantage of UW classes, trainings, or seminars that interest you. I mean when else will you have a full time job that encourages learning and experimentation as much as the fellowship! You have time and funds, so use them.
If possible, be a discussion section leader for a public health course! Leading a discussion section this spring was one of my favorite experiences in the fellowship thus far. Not only will you gain experience in facilitating discussions and teaching others but I guarantee you will also learn a lot from your students. Plus, it is just fun! Dr. Remington typically offers a course in the spring. I would suggest talking to him about other opportunities.
Is there anything else you would like to tell first years OR that you would have liked to know before you started?
Conduct informational interviews with people who are doing work that interests you. Learn how they got to where they are now, what they do on a daily basis, what motivates them to continue the work, etc. This is a great way to explore public health careers and to give you ideas for work you can do during your fellowship to prepare you (and your resume) for future employment!
Be flexible and adaptable – more likely than not, your outlined project plan from when your site applied will morph over the course of the fellowship and in some cases, may even look entirely different by the time you’re done.
Get involved with projects outside of your site such as fellow driven projects. It’s a great chance to interact with other fellows, give birth to an innovative idea, or even dive into an area of work not associated with your site projects.
Curious to learn more? One of our fellows could not have said it any better -
“Have coffee with a former Fellow! Our fellowship community is very welcoming and wants you to succeed. Meeting with former Fellows was helpful and encouraging.”
The invitation is always open - We hope to connect with you!
Stevie and Janine