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Reflecting on a Future in Health

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Christine Do

It wasn’t until winter break of Christine Do’s junior year that she discovered the Health Services Management (HSM) major. She’d been browsing majors online, and as her eyes read the description of the HSM degree, she felt pure illumination: This was the professional degree she’d been searching for but didn’t know existed!

“At that moment, I scrapped all my plans for spring 2019, withdrew from classes I’d registered for,” Christine recalls. “I emailed my advisor that I was adding an HSM degree to my sociology major, and registered for premajor classes.”

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Christine’s advisor wasn’t surprised about the 180-degree shift and challenge that lay ahead. Christine is known for being ambitious and undaunted by the prospect of additional work. In fact, Christine will be graduating with two majors (Health Services Management and Sociology) and two minors (public health and family social sciences), as well as work, internship, and study-abroad experience under her belt. What drives her? In short, she wants to help people and make a difference in the world. But of course, Christine has a lot more to say when it comes to her views on the future, health, and well-being. We asked her a few questions about her college experience, thoughts on the pandemic, and what’s next for her. 

What drives you to pursue a future in health care?

Everyone needs health care; it’s global. Regardless of your color, age, background, anything—you’ll use a health care system at least once in your life. And especially with the pandemic right now, health systems across the world are being tested, even to their breaking point. I think it’s a wake-up call, especially for the United States, where our system is overlapping, complicated, and very costly. It’s creating an opportunity for us to look at our system and ask, “What can we do better?” It’s too bad that it’s taking a deadly virus for people to take notice, but I think it’s this kind of alarm bell that can be a good thing to stimulate change. 

I think [the pandemic] is a wake-up call, especially for the United States, where our system is overlapping, complicated, and very costly. It’s creating an opportunity for us to look at our system and ask, 'What can we do better?'

For example, telemedicine was something that was being used before, but now companies are seeing a 500 percent surge in virtual visits. Doctors who’re spread thin are now learning how to do telemedicine to see more patients. So, the silver lining is that this virus is opening up opportunities for us to find out what we’re capable of. This is exciting to me, and I’m looking forward to contributing to these opportunities, too.

There’s a lot of opportunity for you in this field. 

Yes! I did an informational interview with the CEO of Sholom Home Care, and I’ll never forget the CEO looking me in the eye and saying to me, “Christine, this system that we have right now is not as good as it should be. Your generation will be taking that on.” It’ll be up to my peers and me to make changes because we as a country really have pretty poor health outcomes. We have high rates of chronic illness, hospitalization from preventable causes, obesity, and more. All of this despite the United States being the number-one country in terms of wealth and spending. There are so many mind-boggling things like this that I’m interested in. And there’s no one answer to these questions. 

You encountered some of those questions during a study abroad to Costa Rica, applying your HSM degree in a real-world setting. Tell us more about that experience.

Christine Do Costa Rica

It was eye-opening, and I loved every second of it. I got to learn about this entirely new health care system that I’m not used to. And over the course of the trip I worked with Construction Management (CM) students to develop strategic plans and a proposal for a men’s shelter. HSM students worked on the strategic plan, and the building proposal was done by CM students. I’m fascinated by the ways that different countries define health care and distribute it, and studying abroad in Costa Rica opened my eyes to that. Now is not a good time to travel, but I’d love to one day go to other countries and learn how others collect public health information or how they fund their systems. It’s things like that that make me really think.

Speaking of our current situation, tell us how you’ve adjusted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I’ve been trying to stay inside as much as possible. When Governor Walz declared a shelter in place, it was not new to me: I had already been doing it for two weeks! I’m technically an essential worker at a skilled nursing facility, so I leave the house to go to work. As far as distance learning, it was quite a shift, but professors were great about giving extra time for exams or extending deadlines.

What has it been like to go to work as an essential worker in health care?

It’s crazy the amount of changes and precautions we’re taking. We’ve run out of hand sanitizer and have faced limited supplies of masks. We’re making significant changes to the way we work, too. For example, we used to document everything on paper, but the pandemic forced us to change how we take admissions. It’s more efficient now, working electronically. I’m definitely getting an education through this pandemic experience. I’ll remember it through the rest of my career.

What’s next for you?

I’d like to become a nursing assistant at the facility where I currently work to care for patients. I’d like to do that before my summer internship starts in mid-June. I’ll be interning with UnitedHealth Group as a business analyst. I’m hoping to use that internship not only to satisfy the HSM internship requirement, but also to delve into a specific topic for an honors thesis. This fall I’ll be doing two capstones for two majors, officially graduating in December. Over the summer I’ll decide if I want to get a job after I graduate, or if I want to apply for a graduate program at the U of M—either a Master’s of Nursing or a Master’s of Health Administration. I’m trying to keep my options open and see where it takes me. After all, keeping my options open is what led me here.