By: Laura Paton (MSHC Class of 2017)
Where did you grow up and where do you currently live?
I grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and I’ve lived in Chicago for 25 years.
Where did you do your undergraduate studies and what did you study there?
I did my undergrad at Northwestern and got my Bachelor’s in Journalism.
How did you become interested in health communication?
I come from a family of veterinarians. Because of this, I grew up in a world that had a lot of medicine in it, as well as many comparisons between human and veterinary medicine. It made me realize that vets need to be excellent diagnosticians, because their patients can’t tell you what’s wrong. They need to take cues from the owner, and the animal, and the environment. It also made me realize that humans are not always the best interpreters of themselves either—they can list their symptoms, but not the root cause. Human doctors need to observe what the patient says, but also what the patient does. Later, when saw an ad on a bus for the MSHC program, I was intrigued because I knew communication was a critical—and sometimes missing—component in healthcare. Then I went to an info session and Dr. Lambert’s sample Experience of Illness lecture, and I was hooked. I was a frustrated pre-med student at one point, but I still had this bug to write—and so I got my journalism degree. The MSHC program brought both interests together for me.
Where do you currently work?
I’ve owned my own company, Trilogy Interactive, for 10 years. Before that, I worked at a broadcast ad agency. Trilogy is a digital communications company that works primarily with nonprofits and progressive advocacy organizations. We do serve some healthcare clients—organizations that are advocating for the ACA, advocating for those who are disadvantaged, those who experience health disparities, academic medical centers, as well as organizations that are investigating quality in healthcare. The primary work we do at Trilogy is web design and development work—helping organizations use the web to tell stories and engage their audiences. I hope to continue the evolution of the healthcare channel at Trilogy, utilizing what I’ve learned in the MSHC program.
What are your hobbies?
I have 2 Maltese dogs, Milo and Fergus. I love to cook, especially with friends. I also play the ukulele, and am involved at the Old Town School of Folk Music.
What was your favorite part of the MSHC program?
My favorite part of the program was two classes: Patient Engagement with Dr. Berger and The Experience of Illness with Dr. Lambert. Those two classes really made the students think about our own situations with family and friends going through illness, and made us reflect and become more empathetic. The key is to never forget that a patient is a person with complex emotions, not just a list of symptoms. I think these two classes really made sure students understood that resolving illness doesn’t end with the resolution of symptoms.
I know you are currently an alumni writing coach (and a great one at that)—based on that and your experience, what advice do you have for students starting the program?
My advice is that you get out of it what you put into it. It’s very easy to check the boxes and get the work done. But it’s the people who really dive in and put their whole heart into it who will emerge as change-makers, and will make an impact on our healthcare landscape. And with the recent political climate, this work is more important than ever.