Published: June 15, 2019
By Sally Crocker
Meet Bethany N. Smith, RN, BSN, MPH, MS, a May 2019 graduate of the UNTHSC MPH-Professional Option degree program.
Smith is Campus Nurse for a middle school in the Weatherford Independent School District (WISD).
Her job covers four main areas. She sees and cares for students with sore throats, cuts and scratches – “what you typically consider when you think of the school nurse,” Smith says. She helps manage care for students needing daily medications and health procedures. She oversees Kanga Care, the school-based health clinic at her campus, and she also ensures that all vaccinations and mandatory screenings are completed for each student.
An important part of Smith’s role is ensuring that students have access to healthcare while at school and when they go home. In addition to managing different health-related events on campus, like shot clinics, she also provides education to families and connects them with public health resources and entities for care as needed.
In addition to her MPH, Smith holds an MS in Applied Anthropology and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. During her career, she has worked in hospital emergency services, for a day surgery clinic and at a freestanding emergency facility. She has also traveled overseas doing humanitarian work.
How did the UNTHSC MPH-Professional Option degree help her career?
“As a nurse, I had a great clinical and focused assessment for health and even public health-related illnesses/trauma,” she says. “My UNTHSC degree has helped me broaden my perspective and delivery of care to consider a more holistic and lifestyle health approach for treatment, resources that patients truly have access to, and ways of tailoring the approach to ensure better patient understanding and care.”
“Working in the ER, I saw the need for more public health programs and education. Many of the illnesses and traumas were avoidable if patients would have had access to public health information and education to help them understand the impact of health decision-making behaviors,” Smith says. “While I was working at BSA Health System in Amarillo, a previous position during my career, I obtained my MPH certification online. While traveling overseas, I saw the desperate need for public health programs internationally. This spurred me to continue the pursuit of my full MPH degree with UNTHSC.”
Her advice for current students? “Don’t limit yourself regarding where you can practice with your public health degree. There are numerous opportunities to practice public health even in the positions that do not seem directly related to public health.”
In May 2019, the UNTHSC MPH-Professional Option program celebrated a milestone, marking the graduation of more than 100 alumni since its beginning in 2012. The program was the first in Texas to offer an MPH degree option completely online.