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Using Communication Skills to Break Down Barriers

After Amador Rosales ’20 graduated from Southern Illinois University in 2015 with a degree in biological science, he never intended to work in healthcare. Instead, he was preparing for an internship in an adjacent field: a research assistant position with Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, where he would help support lab experiments.

His first project involved working with a team on a National Cancer Institute-funded research project that investigated prostate cancer at Northwestern University, Rush University, and the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center.

“It was at that point I realized you don’t have to be a physician to make an impact in healthcare—or to help cancer survivors,” he explains. Rosales had lost his mother to breast cancer, so he was passionate about the job he was doing. As he delved more into the work, he decided to keep moving forward in research—and wanted to pursue higher education to help make it happen.

He first considered a Master of Public Health but then discovered Northwestern’s MS in Health Communication program.

“It just clicked for me,” Rosales says. “I’m Hispanic. There are a lot of barriers we face in terms of healthcare communication. That’s also something my mother faced when she was diagnosed with cancer: language barriers and navigating and understanding the U.S. healthcare system. Until Northwestern, I hadn’t seen any program that highlighted how important health communication is and how it can improve the healthcare system and quality of life.”

By this time, he had moved into a new role at Feinberg School of Medicine, serving as a clinical project coordinator for a different department and regularly meeting with researchers about various projects. He was ready to contribute more to the conversation and offer his own input—but feared he lacked the knowledge to do so. He thought an MS in Health Communication would earn him a seat at the table.

“The program offered an incredibly positive experience,” says Rosales. “I talk about it all the time to anyone I encounter.” He says the instructors went above and beyond to make sure he understood and could apply the material based on what he was interested in.

Over the past year, while he was earning his MS in Health Communication, Rosales was offered yet another new opportunity within the Feinberg School of Medicine: He now serves as a clinical project manager, overseeing a diabetes study.

Only a few months into the new position, he’s already seeing his new skills pay off in terms of what he’s able to contribute to the project by helping create better patient education materials, facilitating effective meetings, and taking efficient notes when meeting with physicians and researchers who are always short on time.

“This degree was one of the reasons I was hired for this new position,” he explains. “They were creating a specific tool for patients diagnosed with diabetes and they thought I’d be able to offer helpful feedback.” One of his first tasks was to analyze the tool and offer his perspective on how patients might interpret it, as well as obstacles they may have when attempting to use it.

“I want to utilize this master’s degree to its fullest,” says Rosales. “I now have a lot of new skills I can use to provide more value to my new research team.”