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MSHC Spotlight on Erick Ward by Emily Kirkwood

How did you become interested in health communication?

About three and a half years ago, I switched from journalism to a nonprofit, the National Headache Foundation. I’m the web specialist and communications director, which involves managing the website, social media, and membership outreach, among other things. The foundation is very small—only six of us in the office—so it’s all hands on deck. I enjoy the work, but felt not quite up-to-speed because I didn’t have a health background. 

What health communication topic interests you most?

Health insurance. In my job, I often come across complaints about insurance from patients and other organizations. Knowing more about how the insurance industry works really interests me.

What drew you to the Northwestern program?

The big draw was the Saturday schedule and being able to keep my work schedule and the rest of my life in order while going back to school. 

What do you hope will be the next step in your career?

I like the basis of the work that I’m doing, working in healthcare and with other organizations, but want to make that next step and have more information about what else is available. I’m using the program to explore options, and narrowing things down with every Proseminar speaker and through other research.

What upcoming classes are you most excited about?

I think the Health and Media class is the one that I’m most excited about, based on my background. It’s most aligned with the work that I currently do.

What has surprised you most about the program? 

The wide range of backgrounds in the group. For example, there are people who have been in their jobs for years and people coming just out of undergrad. Northwestern always said this program drew a very diverse group, with different backgrounds and careers, but it wasn’t until I experienced it that I saw how wide-ranging it was. 

What has been your favorite part of the program?

I have a couple of friends in their residency, and I enjoy being able to talk to them about some of this content. I am so much more confident talking to them about the issues in their job, and about what I do now and hope to do later. 

What advice do you have for students starting the program?

Find hidden time in your day to do the readings. I can’t think of a time when I don’t have some of the readings available and waiting for me—on the El, at lunch, in the office… I always have one of the readings with me to do when there’s downtime.

What do you like to do for fun?

I’m a big sports fan (Bears and Bulls). I used to coach middle school football and basketball before starting the program. I hope to get back into coaching after the program.