Student Spotlight: Elizabeth Peterson

1. Why did you choose this MPH program and what do you like about the program so far?

I was ready for a change in my professional life and the EHESP MPH 2 program was the perfect storm of opportunity for me.  I want to do more in my career, think bigger and have more of an impact.   The time was right for me to leave my life for a year to learn more about current theory and concepts and combine new knowledge with the practical experience that I’ve accumulated from my career.  I’ve been fascinated with the European health care systems and wanted to learn more about them and where better to do that but in Europe? Classes taught in English were a necessity for me, and taught in Paris, one of my favorite cities, what could be better?

What I like about the program this far? I am really impressed with the diversity and intelligence of the student population, and the caliber of the professors exceeds my already high expectations.

2. Tell us about your academic background and work experience.

I have a BA in Sociology and my career has been centered on working for people with disabilities in a variety of capacities.  My early work included assisting people with developmental disabilities and brain injury to move from state institutions to the community. It was an innovative time where we experimented with creative ways to use funding to design highly individualized supports for people where quality of life indicators guided us. These were the days of pre-managed care in the USA.

In those years I held a variety of positions from providing service coordination, to working in management, and ultimately developing a company that provided individualized services to people in their homes.

For the last 11 years I worked for the State of New Mexico as the Director of the Brain Injury Advisory Council.  Our efforts centered on creating and/or improving a statewide system of support and services for people living with brain injury, statewide prevention campaigns, and increasing public awareness of brain injury.  I coordinated statewide grass roots advocacy efforts and served as an expert witness in legislative hearings to successfully pass children’s helmet laws, expand the service definition for brain injury and secure permanent funding sources for brain injury services. The work was extremely gratifying and the people that I worked with and for, most of whom had brain injuries have inspired me more than words can express.

I was on the production team of the first TEDx talk in Santa Fe and have served on the board of directors of a local non-profit that provides trained volunteers to people in their homes at critical time of medical need including end of life care.

3. How do you like to spend your free time in Paris?

Free time in Paris?  I’m looking forward to the prospect and am sure I will spend time getting lost on a bike while chasing the ghosts of Edith Wharton, Van Gogh, Modigliani and Julia Child.

4. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I will be involved in meaningful work in a community and hopefully making a difference, enjoying life, surrounded by creative friends, traveling when the opportunities present, cooking, practicing yoga and hiking with my dog.  Location to be determined!

5. What are your favorite hobbies or activities?

Cooking and enjoying long and relaxed meals while debating politics and embracing life with friends, practicing yoga, hiking with my dog.

6. How has your lifestyle changed in Paris compared to where you previously lived?

The life of a student is very different than the life of a professional!  The balance and quality of life that I so carefully crafted is gone for the moment.  Priorities are different. The transition from living in the very comfortable and relaxed small city of Santa Fe to life in big and beautiful Paris has magnified and amplified the differences of lifestyle too numerous to list.  Life is full and wonderful.

7. Tell us one thing about you that many people don’t know?

Hmmmm….. haven’t I shared enough?

8. What are three things on your bucket list?

Walking 1000 km from Sevilla to Santiago de Compostella on the Via de la Plata pilgrim route.

Owning a small bed and breakfast in the French countryside.

Knowing that every citizen in New Mexico has accessible and affordable health care.

9. How did you become interested in Public Health?

In middle school I noticed that kids with developmental disabilities weren’t in the classroom with me, they were in a separate classroom and were segregated from the student body most of the time.  I remember at the age of 12 thinking that was wrong.

10. If you could choose a different career path other than public health what would it be?

I have an entrepreneurial spirit and can see myself creating a business at some point, perhaps in combination with my passion for public health.

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