The School of Public Health and Health Services (SPHHS) recently hosted the event, How Do I Become A Public Health PR Professional? This student-focused career event featured alumnus Steven Immergut, SPHHS MPH ’95, assistant commissioner for public affairs at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
SPHHS undergraduate student Lizzy Belz, class of 2014, shared her reflections about the event:
On April 16, 2013, I attended an event held by GW Student-Alumni Programs featuring alumnus Steven Immergut, Assistant Commissioner for Public Affairs at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Mr. Immergut discussed his role as a public relations professional at the FDA, where he helps guide the FDA’s strategic communications initiatives and oversees the agency’s interaction with the news media.
I found Mr. Immergut’s career endeavors helpful in addressing my own current effort to break into public health communications. His most useful piece of advice—one that he stressed over and over again—was the importance of effective writing skills. He emphasized that knowing how to write clearly and concisely to get one’s point across is key to the communications field. He also expressed the importance of combining writing skills with science and epidemiology as an important foundation in communicating complex issues.
This advice made me extremely grateful for the experience I have had in the Undergraduate Public Health program at GW, where I feel that I have gained an excellent understanding of the critical and complex issues that make up the healthcare sector. Understanding the science and practicing my writing skills through comprehensive projects and papers have given me a foundation that I am now confident will serve as an advantage for me as much as it has for Mr. Immergut.
One surprising aspect of Mr. Immergut’s presentation was his emphasis on taking risks. He explained that taking risks is easier when you are younger, because “you have plenty of time to push the reset button if it doesn’t work out.” This is an important lesson for all of us graduating: if you think a job or internship sounds interesting to you, take the risk. Introduce yourself to people and network extensively. You never know where it will take you. For Mr. Immergut, this attitude certainly took him far into a career he is very proud of, and he gained important experience all along the way.
Mr. Immergut expressed his gratitude for the foundation GW laid for his career. He explained that he did not realize how important his studies were while he was here, but looking down the road 15 or 20 years later, he was truly grateful. I am certainly going to take this advice to heart and take advantage of the few weeks I have left as an undergraduate at this incredible school. It is difficult to appreciate the moments we have while they are happening, but it is important to try to take a second to stop and smell the roses.
In trying to break into the public health PR field, the advice Mr. Immergut provided was extremely helpful. I recently had to take a writing test as a part of the interview process for my position as an intern in social marketing and health, and his emphasis on writing skills rang through my ears as I typed away. His career has been quite impressive, and the advice I have outlined is truly important for all of us trying to take the next steps in our career endeavors. So write well, appreciate the moments, study knowing the material matters beyond the grade you get, and don’t be afraid to take risks!
Lizzy Belz is a senior undergraduate from Memphis, Tennessee majoring in Public Health at the GW School of Public Health and Health Services. She has worked as an intern in Ecuador with Dr. Interns, a non-profit organization that sends students to developing countries to shadow doctors and assist in healthcare clinics. She is currently employed as a social marketing and research intern at Porter Novelli.
This post originally appeared on the SPHHS Career Services blog on April 26, 2013.
Learn more about the “How Do I Become A…” series!