Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Defense

Today was the final day of Reckoning for my Masters Degree in Public Health. I had my defense in front of my committee today and....I passed! The whole process went really smoothly. I did a 30 minute presentation (which was pretty darn good if I say so...I'm becoming a powerpoint wiz!) and then my committee had questions for me. I handled the questions and felt really good about my responses. After that, they sent me out to deliberate and about 10 minutes later, they called me back in. I passed with minimum revisions, mostly formatting and editorial comments. I should be able to make all the changes within a day, then print this baby out and be done!

I feel great!! And the sun came out today, I feel even better.

Thanks for all the support, calls, emails, gchats, texts, prayers, and thoughts! They were all deeply appreciated.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Fun on the East Coast

At the beginning of March, I headed back to the East Coast for some business and pleasure. I attended the Annual Heath Advocacy Summit with other BYU students. I attended this conference last year, but this year came back as a presenter! I flew in a few days before the conference to spend time in DC and with friends. I had hopes of doing some job searching, but that didn't quite happen the way I planned. Overall, the trip was fantastic and I enjoyed every minute. Here are some pictures to narrate my experience.

Day 1: Fly into Baltimore. I arrived in Baltimore on Thursday afternoon and had my friend Camille and her husband pick me up. Camille is a fellow MPHer with me and graduated last December. We hung out at her place and waited for Aaron to come meet us in Bmore. We then all headed to a Thai restaurant for some dinner.

Day 2: Playing tourist: Aaron had to work all day, so I decided to go explore our nation's capitol. Since I've been here a few times in the past year,  and have already seen some highlights, I decided to seek unexplored territory. I made it to my first stop all by myself, of which I was quite proud. I met up with some other students who also flew in early and we headed to the Natural History Museum. This museum is so cool and full of wildlife wonders! There was an Africa room, ocean room, gems and rocks (not so cool- The Hope Diamond is not nearly as impressive as I expected it to be, but Napoleon's diamond necklace is incredible!), and dinosaur exhibit. The exhibits were so fun and I was running around like a little kid, kind of expecting the animals to come to life like in "Night at the Museum." Sadly, or maybe fortunately, none did. This was a great Smithsonian. I love natural history!

 Did you know that the pig is related to the hippopotamus?

After the Natural History Museum, we headed over to the National Gallery of Art. A few wandered around, and I sat myself down on a comfy couch in an impressionism room. I've been to the gallery, and for as much as I want to love art galleries, I get bored quite easily. It was much better to crash for a bit and relax. All that running around the Natural History Museum tuckered me out! After, I still had some time to kill, so I wandered around the mall and enjoyed the gorgeous views between the Capitol Building and Washington Monument.

After that I met up with Aaron to visit the Terra Cotta Warriors Exhibit at the National Geographic Museum. The exhibit shows the ancient clay army commissioned by China's 1st Emperor, who wanted thousands of clay soldiers to protect his tomb. The Emperor was pretty crazy, but his artisans crafted some amazing warriors!

Day 3: Friends and Conference: Saturday morning started off with a run and then a tasty buckwheat and grits (not so tasty) breakfast at Eastern Market. We met Brandon and Maggie as well as my friend Alisha for breakfast and had some good times.

Eastern Market

The conference started Saturday afternoon and so I headed over there as quickly as I could. I presented during one of the Saturday sessions, "Effective Hill Visits." The MPH director volunteered me to present during this session. I was leery and a bit nervous, but it turned out really well and the presentation helped me make some professional contacts. As people were trying to ease my nerves beforehand, I realized how grateful I was that I've been giving talks in church since I was 12 and even earlier if you count primary talks. Also, if I can give a 10 minute talk in a foreign language, I can definitely give a 20 minute presentation in English! And since the presentation went so well, they asked me to help with role plays the following day. I hate role plays and was hoping that my mission was the last time I would ever have to participate, but no. That was probably the least fun part of the whole weekend, but I did it and it was okay.

Saturday night, Alisha and I met up with Camille and her husband Aaron for dinner. After wandering for about an hour and a half, we finally decided on a West African restaurant, where I ate some very familiar Caribbean like food. I'm not sure if the others enjoyed their meals, but I loved what I had! You know the food is authentic when you are the only white people in the entire restaurant!

Presenting at the conference

Saturday night with Alisha and Camille

Day 4: Conference: Sunday was a full conference day and that night after the conference, Alisha and I took a stroll around the Monuments and enjoyed the peaceful evening and not too freezing weather. We also enjoyed a scrumptious dinner made by Aaron and his friend Stanley. Sunday evening consisted of monuments, dinner, and lots of laughing. Oh, and we also snuck out of the conference to attend Church.

Day 5: Capitol Hill: Monday was spent on Capitol Hill. This is the place where the real work takes place. I had three appointments with different Washington State legislators (technically their legislative aides, since hardly anyone is in the office Mondays). The time on Capitol Hill was fun and I think we rocked the visits! My fellow classmate from Washington and I presented and discussed our issues together. In between appointments we toured the Library of Congress and the House and Senate buildings.

Capitol Building Tour

Outside the office of Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (she's from Spokane)

After the exciting and energizing day on Capitol Hill, I hurried off to meet some friends for dinner. I met up with Aaron, Liz, Chris and Lizzy. It was fun seeing old friends and good to spend a relaxing evening enjoying each other's company.

Day 6: DC Wrap-up: Tuesday was a little less structured than the other days and I had the morning to do whatever I liked. I started off with sleeping in a bit and then going for a run around the National Mall. It was fantastic! I ran from the Capitol Building to the Lincoln Memorial to the White House and back to the Capitol Building and then home. The weather was almost spring like and made the run that much more enjoyable.

Then I headed off to take a tour of the Health and Human Services Building with the BYU group. I loved the tour! We met with people in different jobs and learned what they did. We even got to see the office of the Secretary and check out what goes on behind closed doors. My favorite part was learning about the policy analyst jobs and realizing that I really might like working for the government. Who wouldn't want to be paid to think! I think I have great thoughts and should get paid for them. Seriously, I really am interested and wanted to talk more to a lady who works as an analyst for global health programs (PEPFAR, Malaria, HIV, TB initiatives, and others).  After the tour, I booked it over to meet Alisha at PAHO headquarters. Alisha and I interned with PAHO this summer and she was giving a presentation about her summer research. I went to support and to take advantage of networking opportunities.

PAHO Headquarters

All in all it was a fantastic trip! Each trip to DC reconfirms my initial impressions that I want to live out there for a bit. I've focused my job search to the area, now let's just cross our fingers that I find one!