SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University
School of Public Health
Nicole A. McLean
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
Degree(s), Concentration, and Class Year at SUNY Downstate: MPH (with Distinction), Epidemiology, Class of 2015
Undergraduate Major: Biology, Howard University, 2009
Current Profession: Pediatric Resident at NYP/Columbia – Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital
1. Why did you choose to study at SUNY Downstate School of Public Health (SPH)? Did SPH meet your expectations?
My passion for public health began in high school when I was a scholar of the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health: Health Science Academy (HSA) at SUNY Downstate. The HSA taught me to identify health disparities in my community and work to eliminate them. I have since made it my goal to improve the health conditions of the underserved. In pursuit of that goal, I entered the Master of Public Health (MPH) program at SUNY Downstate School of Public (SPH). Downstate’s campus is in my hometown of East Flatbush and I was pleasantly surprised by the inclusion of and sensitivity to the surrounding community. This provided an enriching aspect to my public health training. Completing my MPH at SUNY Downstate was proved to be an incredibly fulfilling experience.
2. What was the most memorable experience or advice you received during your time at SPH that struck you as particularly meaningful?
I gained additional insight into the health challenges in my community when I began a research traineeship at the Brooklyn Health Disparities Center (BHDC). During the traineeship, I applied my epidemiologic skills as I worked with community-based organizations to identify relevant research topics and design appropriate research plans that were to be carried out by high school students. Although I enjoyed using my skills in community-based participatory research to develop timely and appropriate research topics, my favorite part of my work at the BHDC was working with the high school students. I always loved listening to the students’ insights and found myself mentoring several of the students.
3. Which SPH community member (e.g. faculty, staff, mentor, fellow classmates) influenced you the most and why?
Dr. Michael Joseph was very influential during my time at the SPH. Early in my MPH studies, Dr. Joseph recognized my interests and recommended that I pursue epidemiology as my concentration. He frequently challenged me to apply my MPH training by inviting me to assist in teaching his popular Biostatistics for Non-Statisticians sessions at the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) Annual Meeting. I found all faculty that I worked with at the SPH to be knowledgeable and supportive but Dr. Joseph is exceedingly dedicated to both the teaching of public health and empowerment of his students.
4. Where has life taken you since you graduated from SPH? How has your experience at Downstate SPH prepared you for your career?
In 2020, I graduated from Howard University College of Medicine with Doctorate of Medicine. I am now a pediatric resident at NYP/Columbia – Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. My experience at the SPH has equipped me with considerable scientific skills and the ability to display an ethical approach to health issues. Working closely with community leaders taught me how to effectively communicate with people from different backgrounds. Engaging my community and conducting epidemiologic research encouraged me to pursue a career in which I can apply both medical and public health methods to improve the health of underserved populations.
5. Could you describe your current profession? What is the most rewarding and most challenging aspect of your profession?
As a pediatric resident, I receive training in general pediatrics while providing medical care to children and adolescents in both inpatient and outpatient settings. With the current pandemic, there is some emotional strain in being a healthcare worker but being able to treat children and provide guidance to families is incredibly rewarding.
6. What advice do you have for prospective students?
I would recommend the SPH for anyone who is interested in public health and its real-world applications. As you go through your training, frequently take stock of your interests, skills, values. These assessments are helpful in determining what opportunities you want to pursue, what faculty you’d like to have as mentors and what career is best suited for you.
7. Where do you see yourself in five years?
In five years, I see myself in pediatric emergency medicine fellowship training. With my public health background, I am particularly interested in pediatric emergency medicine because it provides the unique opportunity to treat acutely ill patients and provide guidance to families. Because my interests in epidemiology and medicine are now inextricably linked, I frequently use my public health and clinical training to treat patients holistically; considering biological, psychological, environmental, and societal influences when providing health care. I feel that this approach is beneficial, especially when addressing health disparities. In addition to serving individuals in a clinical setting; I hope to manage health challenges through research, community engagement, teaching, and mentorship.