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Applying Healthcare Communication Skills in Real Time

As the daughter of two realtors, Hannah Boggs ’21 always understood the value of a business degree. When she was in high school, however, she fell in love with psychology. When it came time to choose an undergraduate major, psychology seemed like a natural fit.

While she attended Roosevelt University to earn her degree, she also worked at Nike as a sales associate. Although she wanted to put her psychology knowledge to work, she knew she would likely need a graduate degree to pursue many of the positions she was interested in: social work, counseling, etc. So, when Nike offered her a full-time operations position upon graduation, she gladly accepted.

After a few years, however, the retail life became wearing. “There were nights I was working until midnight and then had to go back the next morning at 8 am,” she says. “I started to think about other career options. I’ve always wanted to work in a hospital. I don’t know why, but I feel at home there.”

In 2018, she decided to explore paths that offered traditional hours. “My fiancé was working at Northwestern Law as a financial analyst,” she says. “He told me about program assistant positions that support faculty and staff.”

She applied for and landed a program assistant position with Northwestern’s Department of Medical Social Sciences—a good fit for her psychology degree. “Right away, I was on board with Northwestern. I clicked with my team and loved my work. My department is really interesting as a combination of clinical and population science.” Her passion translated 

After she felt comfortable in her role—and with help from Northwestern’s employee tuition benefits program—she decided it was time to pursue a graduate degree. “I knew a degree from Northwestern was impressive,” she says. “And my job helped confirm that I love working in the health field. I wanted a degree that would allow me to continue to work in healthcare, but I also didn’t want to limit myself.”to a promotion a few months later, working with scientific and faculty development and the Institute for Innovations in Developmental Sciences director.d staff.”

She first investigated online programs and appreciated the fact that she could do coursework remotely. But as she explored degree options at Northwestern, she discovered the MS in Health Communication program.

To learn more, she reached out to one of the program’s alumni. “I figured it would be good to talk to someone about the experience. Then I interviewed with the program coordinator. That was when I knew I was definitely going to apply.”

At first, she wasn’t thrilled about giving up every Saturday for classes. “During my first day of orientation, any worry I had went out the window. There are 52 of us in the cohort, and it’s such a good group of people. I never would’ve made friends through an online program the way I have here. You’re going to get to the point where you don’t want it to end. It’s worth every hour you spend on Saturdays.”

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily shifted the program online, Boggs says the connection between her professors and her cohort is still there. Program Director Dr. Bruce Lambert led virtual townhalls and Q&As to answer questions and share anxieties about remote coursework and the virus in general. Even online, she’s confident that the program will provide her with everything she needs to be a good health communicator.

“Even though he’s not a medical doctor, Dr. Lambert works with and knows many of them,” she explains. “It was reassuring to talk to someone who’s in touch with that world. He told us about news sources he relies on for information as opposed to social media.”

Boggs believes the program is already furthering her career. On May 1, she will begin her new role with the Department of Medical Social Sciences as a program coordinator, assisting with research projects that have a connection to health communications. “This will be a good chance for me to see how I can apply my skills to an actual research study. It’s nice to have the opportunity to implement what I’ve learned so far.”