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Public Health Associates Program 

CDC program offers college grads public health experience

Gretchen Paule is a Public Health Associate assigned to the Clay County Health Department in Flora, Ill. Gretchen recently graduated from the University of California at Davis, and is spending the next two years in Illinois gaining valuable experience in public health while working at the health department. Most people with an interest in public health don’t have the chance to take their first position post-college working for a state or local health department, but the CDC’s Public Health Associates Program provides that opportunity.

Gretchen is spending her first year working in the Chronic Disease program focusing on the Community Health Assessment and Improvement Plan for the county. While working on the plan, Gretchen has conducted a windshield survey, walking and driving around the community to observe what resources are available. “I think it’s a really good opportunity to get a unique picture of the health of the community,” she said.

The Public Health Associates Program is specifically geared to individuals who don’t have much experience in public health, but are interested in the field and want to gain a broad perspective. Associates go through an application process and can be placed anywhere in the country at a host site. The Clay County Health Department, which went through a similar application process, is the first site selected for the program in Illinois.

Associates train at the CDC for two weeks prior to beginning their fellowship, learning the basics of public health and the history of the CDC.

A new round of applications for the Associates Program opened on Feb. 1 2012, and Gretchen highly recommends the program to interested recent graduates. “I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity to gain this experience since entry-level public health positions are hard to come by,” she said. Gretchen plans to receive a master’s degree in Public Health once her fellowship ends.

The Public Health Associates Program is supported with funding by the Public Health and Prevention Fund, part of the Affordable Care Act, and is administered by the Center for Disease Control. For more information on the program, please visit: