Skip to main content

Building on Experiences to Create Positive Change in Healthcare

When Ashley Gold ’18 was on her way home from work one day, something caught her eye: a poster for Northwestern’s MS in Health Communication program.

“I’d always been into healthcare,” she explains. “I was a cancer patient—fibrous sarcoma—and I have a very long history of cancer in my life. Everyone always told me I’d make a difference in healthcare because of the things I went through and my compassion, but I didn’t really know what to do with it.”

After she earned her bachelor’s degree in geography in 2010, she spent some time in retail management and food service before going back to school to become a certified veterinary assistant.

Because of her interest in healthcare, she decided to attend an info session. What she heard there resonated with her: discussions about current healthcare challenges, how healthcare has changed (and will continue to change), and how graduates can influence this change in a positive way.

Although she wasn’t ready to put all her eggs in one basket in terms of choosing a career, she did want to gain some direction and new expertise—and improve skills that had gotten a little rusty over the years. Gold decided the MS in Health Communication program was exactly what she needed.

“I really enjoyed the open setting,” she says. “Depending on the professor, it was more like an open conversation in some classes. They want to see us succeed. They want the information they put in front of us to actually be practiced and applied in the world to help solve problems. They want us to change healthcare for the better.”

The program also opened her eyes to new concepts, such as user experience design. “I’d never thought about it or how it’s such a huge part of today’s society,” she says. One of Gold’s favorite classes was Human-Computer Interaction, which provides hands-on experience with how users interact with platforms—and how the right platform can change how people perceive information.

She credits Northwestern University’s quarter system—which divides the academic year into three quarters, with a fourth quarter (summer) that offers a chance to take additional classes—for helping her develop a laser focus on the information she needed to improve her communication and critical thinking. “I now have more confidence in myself to solve problems without having to ask someone for advice or see if it’s okay. These skills have also played into my job.”

Serving as a clinical coordinator at biotechnology company Tempus Labs, Gold’s work involves medical logistics, quick thinking, and problem-solving.

Through genomic sequencing, clinical data structuring, and image recognition, Tempus Labs produces data to solve problems for clients. The company works with cancer patients—and Gold is often their main point of contact.

“I know what they’re going through. I can relate to the person on the phone who’s terrified. They want to be heard. They’re not just a lab test,” she says. “I don’t think I’d have this job if I didn’t have this degree. I’m putting my own history, experiences, and education to good use. I work with sales reps, care teams, and patients. And I attribute my ability to do that to the program.”

Gold has also chosen to stay involved with the MS in Health Communication program by serving on alumni panels to share her experiences and knowledge, as well as serve as a resource for people who are questioning their career paths.

“I really appreciated the alumni who participated when I was in school,” she says. “I believe in the program and the people running it. The more we get word out about this program, the better we—and the industry—can be.”