| Anthony S. Romano, M.P.H.
Class of 2016
Please tell us about some of your activities since your graduation from the MPH program?
During most of my time as a student in the program, I worked full-time for a non-profit agency on Long Island. Towards the end, I accepted a position with the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) on a national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funded project known as the National HIV Behavioral Surveillance Project (NHBS). During my time with NHBS I had a unique opportunity to experience a variety of the qualitative and quantitative research methods we studied in the program first hand. After spending a significant amount of time conducting both field work and data analytics, I realized that I felt most at home when I was sitting in front of SAS with a bunch of data sets open. My interest in data and passion for HIV prevention led me to the Field Services Unit (FSU) of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYCDOHMH) where I currently work as Data Analyst and Program Manager. Day-to-day I’m leveraging multiple datasets to help answer programmatic and scientific questions meant to better facilitate the medical care of New York Cities HIV positive and at-risk communities. In my spare time, I teach an introduction to research methods for the graduate program in applied health informatics here at Stony Brook.
How has your MPH degree influenced your career?
Before I came into the program I had been out of school for about 2 years and feeling like I needed a way to improve my skills to make myself more marketable. I wasn’t getting everything I wanted out of the job I had and I didn’t really know how to navigate my independent learning efficiently. Someone I’d been working with at the time suggested that I look into the MPH program at Stony Brook and so I did. After looking at the course curriculum, I knew I had to apply.
Throughout my entire time with the program I felt like I was part of something bigger. Dr. Lisa Benz Scott takes the time to make every student feel welcome and I think that energy inspires the rest of the faculty. During my practicum project Dr. Catherine Messina provided me with a great deal of support and inspiration, without which I would have been lost. Dr. Tia Palermo challenged us in Advanced Research Methods to conduct in STATA analyses that sometimes felt overwhelming but ultimately led us to a deeper understanding of data analysis. In Environmental & Occupational Health as well as Spatial Analysis, Dr. Jamie Meliker instilled in us a healthy skepticism of the research we consume and the methods our peers choose to take. In Health Systems Performance Dr. Norman Edelman provided us with bits of wisdom that, to this day, my peers and I still quote and apply to our conversations about the state of healthcare in America.
Last but certainly not least, my love of SAS was sparked by Jamie Romeiser in her course Data Management and Informatics where she eloquently and artfully introduced us to the world of data. In fact, I believe this class in particular to be the major reason I’m currently employed and I will be eternally grateful for the experiences she imparted on us.
What advice would you give a new student just starting the program?
Well first off, Joanie Maniaci is amazing and always there for you if you need help figuring out your next steps in the program. Second, never hesitate to speak with your professors. They’re there to help you - and perhaps in a way that’s particular to the MPH program; they care about your success and future. If you have an interest and you’re not quite sure how you can pursue it, they can point you in the right direction even if they themselves don’t have the answer.
Since my interests are specifically related to data management and analytics my recommendations might be mostly applicable to Health Analytics students (so don’t be discouraged by what I recommend if that’s not your concentration!). Data science is the “hot topic” in recent years – and rightfully so. Many organizations are sitting on massive amounts of data with a lack of in-house man/woman power to analyze it. New, and often free, analytics programs have blossomed in popularity and private as well as public institutions now have the capacity to take advantage of the data they possess. In the MPH program you will be introduced to one of the most well-known statistical programming languages: SAS. If you take the time to master the basics of SAS it will become one of the most tangible skills you can list on your resume and mention in interviews. Taking the time to learn R or Python will also place you ahead of others in interviews and will be much more approachable with a background in SAS. Spatial Analysis in ArcGIS/QGIS is another key skill that the program offers that recruiters like to see in a resume.
When you pursue your practicum project, do not simply take the easiest project available. Talk with your professors, reach out to alumni, find something that you’re passionate about or feels like a natural fit – even if that “passion” isn’t fully developed. Your practicum probably won’t be the perfect fit for you, but it will help you see which direction you should wander off in to find the perfect job down the road.