Alumni Profiles

Debbie Cunningham DrPH, CNM, MPH

I set out to pursue doctoral studies in order to expand my knowledge and improve my skills in my chosen fields of nurse-midwifery and public health. I’ve been a registered nurse since 1983 and a certified nurse-midwife since 1993. I also hold an MPH degree. Before joining the DrPH program at SPH, I spent eleven years working overseas, mostly in central Africa and central Asia. Since 1998, I’ve worked with Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

SPH’s program was an ideal choice for me because it allowed me to combine advanced study in public health with a focus on maternal and child health. The School’s DrPH degree program fit my goals perfectly, as it is a practice-oriented program that covers policy development, program management, and professional leadership.

It is my hope to use the skills I gained in this program to expand my impact on reproductive health services at the field level, through a deeper involvement with policy development, production of guidelines, and training protocols. My future work will place special emphasis on operational research activities and publication of the lessons learned in maternal and child health care in emergency settings. This will certainly include continued involvement with MSF and perhaps also with an agency that has an MCH-specific focus, such as the Department of Global Outreach of the American College of Nurse-Midwives.

Following graduation, I accepted the position of Reproductive Health Advisor and Coordinator of Medical Specialists for Médecins Sans Frontières in Amsterdam.

Allison L. Higgins, DrPH, MEd

I received a bachelor’s degree in business management from Providence College and a master’s degree in health promotion and behavior from the University of Georgia. I am currently the manager of Wellness Programs for Raytheon Company, which is an industry leader in defense and government electronics that employs 80,000 people worldwide. As part of my work, I provide direction and support for wellness programs and resources, including wellness-program planning, delivery, and evaluation; fitness program oversight; and vendor management for outsourced activities, which includes programs in health risk assessment, cardiovascular risk reduction, and preventive health risk intervention. Prior to Raytheon, my recent work experience included serving as project director for the University of Georgia Workplace Health Group, as the Wellness Works coordinator for St. Mary’s Healthcare Systems, and as a health fitness specialist for Johnson & Johnson Health Care Systems.

I decided to pursue a DrPH degree to better develop my skills in program design, management, and particularly evaluation. I hope to use the skills I acquired at SPH to continue my work in employee health and productivity, as well as to bridge the gap that exists between public and private organizations’ initiatives in managing chronic disease risk factors. I chose to study at SPH because its philosophy and vision was broad enough to include employers as effective partners for public health in moving toward achieving the Healthy People 2010 goals in chronic disease and lifestyle risk factors. As a professional, I chose SPH because I was able to pursue the degree on a part-time basis while I continued to work.

Nathan M. Nickerson, DrPH, RN, MSN

Prior to starting the DrPH program, and while concentrating in international health at SPH, I was the director of public health for the City of Portland, Maine. I have been a nurse practitioner for many years, working primarily with underserved populations in Boston and Maine. As part of that work, I developed and managed health care services for homeless and low-income, uninsured people. I have also developed substance abuse services, mental health services, needle exchange, and HIV-treatment programs that focused on reaching people who use injection drugs. I have BS degrees from Tufts University and the University of Southern Maine, as well as a master’s degree in nursing from Simmons College. I have served on many public health committees, including the Presidential Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS. Currently, I am the executive director of Konbit Sante, a small organization based in Maine that is working to help improve the capacity of the public health system in the Northern Department of Haiti.

I decided to pursue a DrPH degree because I wanted to make a career change and apply the experience that I have gained working in public health in this country to other resource-poor settings. I realized that, in order to be most effective, it takes much more than good intentions. I saw the DrPH degree program as an opportunity to do some concentrated and rigorous study of how to develop, manage, and evaluate public health interventions in the settings I am interested in. It gave me a chance to both understand some of the best practices in these areas, as well as how to evaluate the evidence of their effectiveness. I chose the DrPH program at SPH because of the emphasis it places on applied public health practice, rather than academic research. I am not certain where this will take me, but I plan to continue to work in Haiti for the indefinite future. My hope is to witness the day when the health indicators actually start to improve there, and I would like to play some small role in that change.