Getting Practical Experience in Graduate School: Working as a Research Associate

Brielle Rucsitti, MS GHPM/MA SID'24

October 05, 2023

Brielle RuscittiOne of the signature M.S. Global Health program courses is International Health Systems and Development, which was taught by Diana Bowser the semester I took the course. The class has been my favorite thus far at Heller. Through this course, I learned so much about the varying aspects of universal health coverage and health systems across the world as well as technical analysis skills that I will take with me into my career. Beyond this, I also gained the valuable connection and mentorship of my professor, who I began working with this past January.

My work in admissions helped me begin working with Diana, as I completed a brief project related to PhD admissions. I then began working as a research associate and project manager on a project investigating the impact of a specific Colombian policy, called the Estatuto, on Venezuelan migrants’ access to health care services. This project piqued my interest, as we had covered this issue in class and access to health for migrants is a global issue. This project offers the chance to learn how a progressive integration approach is working for a large, displaced population. In the initial phase of the project, I was able to learn about the various aspects of project planning from survey writing to implementation and protocol writing. As the Colombia project has been up and running for a couple of months, I have been able to apply some of the skills I learned in class, through a direct translation of an in-class example, such as health system analyses, to better understand attributes of the Colombian health system, and varying regional integration efforts. 

Following the spring semester, I completed my practicum with Diana: this summer, I was able to work full time on these projects and begin working on my capstone, a requirement of the MA SID/MS GHPM program. I have also been able to work on a number of economic and costing analyses related to projects related to health disparities, youth readiness interventions and juvenile recovery programs, and continued to meet valuable connections, mentors and research collaborators. Throughout my role as a research associate, I have relied heavily on Stata programming skills and general Excel functions learned through the MS GHPM program. I have also improved on my writing skills and collaboration, which is a critical soft skill. Overall, my work in this role has served as a perfect complement to my coursework and gave me real world applications and experience to take into my career.