The Power of Public Health


When it starts to feel scary, you know you are headed in the right direction.


We made it to end of the academic year! Can you believe it? It seems like orientation was just a couple of weeks ago.

As I sit and reflect on all the things from this past year, I am incredibly grateful for the amazing classmates I met, the wonderful classes I took, and the incredible lessons I learned. I now understand why the JHSPH is the number one School of Public Health: because of people like you! 

Over the past year, you have made incredible contributions to the school, research, and your field of study. We want you to be proud of your growth as a scholar, researcher and most importantly as a person. Although sometimes we think we have not come very far and it may seem like we are in the same place than a few months ago, please know that you have accomplished so much more than you think. Be proud of yourself!

Whether you are finishing your degree or have a few more years left at the school, we (JHSPH) are extremely lucky to have you. If you are graduating, congratulations and remember that you will always be a part of the JHSPH family, now as an alumnus. If you have a couple more years at the school, there are so many more opportunities waiting for you. The important thing is to continue to move forward, continue our work as public health leaders, and continue to better ourselves. 

The world needs us more than ever. It sure feels scary, but it is probably because we are heading in the right direction. Remember that there is so much power behind public health and there is so much power within you. Use it well.

Thank you for all your contributions to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and thank you for allowing me to be your JHSPH Office of Student Life Graduate Assistant. 

Thank you by Marco Verch under Creative Commons 2.0 

-Paul Delgado, ScM 20’ 

Develop an Exit Strategy

by Jessica Harrington, Director

Image by Gerd Altmann (Pixabay)

Fourth term often marks a time of transition whether it’s moving one year closer to completion, graduating, or job hunting (or all of the above at the same time!).  Whatever your transition, we encourage you to pause and engage thoughtfully to prepare for what’s next. Download our Exit Strategy PDF and work through the questions. While the document is geared toward graduating students, continuing students may still find the questions useful. If you need support, Student Life is still here for you! 


Find Your Step Forward

Two people hiking. Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

By Jessica Harrington, Director

Moving forward in a season of uncertainty will look different for everyone. It requires resilience and curiosity about what the future holds. Moving forward doesn’t eliminate fear, but allows us the courage to persevere in the face of fear.

Think of moving forward as a small, intentional action toward a goal.

What does forward look like for you today? Forward might involve some (or all) of the following:

  1. Small and great acts of self care as shared in today’s earlier posts.
  2. Leveraging inner strengths to connect with yourself and others. Consider taking the VIA Character Strengths assessment. It’s free and insightful.
  3. Remaining optimistic about future prospects for employment. The field of public health is expanding. See how alumni are actively putting their skills and education to use around the world.
  4. Confronting and exploring fear.
  5. Reaching out for help if you need to air your concerns. JHSAP and Student Life are here to listen and support your overall wellbeing. Career Services is here to support you in navigating the employment landscape.

Whatever forward looks like for you, take it a small step at a time. Keep going!

Surviving Praise and Criticism: Doctoral Student Encouragement

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

By Jessica Harrington, Director

The long road to the PhD is filled with constant feedback. At times it may be wonderful and inspiring, and other times, it may be harsh or critical. Below are some tips to navigate the feedback loop in a balanced way.

  1. Remember this: Praise and criticism are only two ends of a long spectrum of feedback. In the middle is room for growth and change.
  2. Communication style matters. Talk with your advisor about your communication style and theirs. Regarding performance, do you prefer feedback in person or emailed? When it comes to your research, how would you prefer to receive encouragement or correction?
  3. Get curious and ask questions! Ask for clarification (you may need to take a deep breath first if the moment is intense.). Repeat back what you hear the other person saying in a non-defensive way. If the response strikes your emotions in a negative way, ask for a break or if you could have time to process the issue.
  4. You are you; you are not your feedback. It can be difficult to separate ourselves from our work. Author Tara Mohr has some excellent advice about ways to unhook from praise and criticism.
  5. Talk with your peers. Identify community support and learn ways other doctoral students navigate feedback. In addition to support from JHSPH peers, consider visiting
  6. You always possess the gift of response. Options for responding to feedback include gratitude, openness, engagement, as well as bitterness, resentment, and disengagement. Sometimes, you may need to disengage before re-engaging. It’s also great to vent and let out resentment and bitterness. Just remember, you always have a choice. Remember
  7. You can handle this. Enough said.

Handling Rejections: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly


“Dear [insert name],

Thank you for submitting your application. After reviewing numerous requests, we regret to inform that your application has not been selected” 

At this point in your graduate career, I’m sure you have experienced what it feels to be rejected. I have been through it countless times, but every time it happens, I am reminded that it does not feel good to get another letter of rejection. Although rejection in academia is part of the process as in any other sector, sometimes it can feel more personal. Grants, manuscripts, fellowships, scholarships, graduate programs, they all come with a yes or a no. Somehow though, it can feel more personal as a group of total strangers are judging your work and all the sacrifices you have made. 

Before going into graduate school, no one ever tells you that your initial first author paper is likely to be rejected. They do not tell you that even as a student at the number one School of Public Health, you will continue to receive rejections. But think about it: When you look at someone’s CV, what do you see? It’s like social media; all you see are the highlights of successes in their lives. No one really lists their failures in their CV (unless you are Johannes Haushofer) or how many times their manuscript was rejected. Because this is the culture of academia, very few people openly talk about their own rejections and failures. 

Because I know how it feels to get another letter/email (lost count already), this blog is to share with you some advice to help you cope with rejection in graduate school:

1. It’s okay to feel bad about it: Feeling sad, disappointed, even angry is perfectly fine. It sucks getting rejected. Don’t fight the feeling. Once you have processed it, use that fuel and energy to continue the fight.

2. Learn from it: Accept it and learn from it. Rejections say nothing about you as a person. However, there is always room for improvement. Do not let rejection define you, instead, use it to your advantage to become a better version of yourself.

3. Don’t take it personally: When it comes to a manuscript or grant, there is always that one reviewer that will give you a harder time. Remember, it’s not about you. They are critiquing the work and doing their job in helping you become a better researcher. 

4. Focus on the process: It wasn’t until about a couple of years ago that all I could see as “success” was me having that dream job. I quickly realized I would be miserable if I did not enjoy the process itself. Enjoy the process, have fun, work hard, and things will fall into place.

In a few years, you will look back at those rejections and laugh about them. Do not let the system bring you down. Rejection is part of the process; the difference is how you react to it. 

Navigating Graduate School as a First-Generation Student


Last week, the Office of Student Life hosted a first-generation graduate panel with a diverse group of first-gen students as panelists. The event gave other students and staff the opportunity to hear from their stories and experiences on what it means to be a first-generation graduate student. More than anything, it was an opportunity to begin creating a community and identifying a few strategies needed to navigate academia and higher education.

As a first-generation graduate student, I understand the challenges and struggles that come with navigating graduate school. Often times, people tend to assume that if someone makes it successfully through their undergraduate degree, they will make it through graduate school at a “level playing field”. From experience, I know this is not true. 

Therefore, we want to share with you some of the key strategies identified during our panel discussion that are part of the graduate school hidden curriculum:

1. Identify mentors: As we mentioned last week in our mentorship blog post, academia can be very difficult to navigate without the proper training and guidance. Identify potential mentors among faculty, staff and/or student body that can help you through your professional and personal development. 

2. Connect with local and campus resources: There are many organizations at JHSPH that aim to support minority groups across campus. In addition, Source, JHSAP, and the Office of Student Life provide resources to help students and trainees navigate, academic, personal, and professional environments. 

3. Create a community and support network: One of my main fears moving across the country and starting graduate school was that I would not find a “community”. Thankfully, I was wrong. Finding faculty that can support you within your department and other departments, is key to your success in graduate school. Also, finding friends that you can count on not just for studying. Graduate school can become very lonely, you will need cheerleaders and sometimes you will play the cheerleader role. 

4. Remember your support system back home: As first-generation students, we’re the first to navigate these spaces. However, it doesn’t mean that you have to take all the weight on your shoulders. Although my mom doesn’t really understand my research on macrophages, she’s always cheering me from far away and understands when I’m having a hard time. Know that your family, friends, and former mentors from back home are only a text, call, or email away.

You got this! You did not get this far to only make it this far.

Prepare for the Midterm Hump

By Jessica Harrington, Director

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Don’t watch the clock; do what it does. Keep going. -Sam Levenson

We’re almost halfway through third term (insert smile or deep sigh or both here).  For many, this means deadlines and midterms (exhale). Here are 3 tips for navigating this busy time:

  1. As you’re preparing for whatever is on your schedule, consider doing a 3 minute body scan to relax and focus.
  2. Before a test, consider making a few power poses to aid in a confidence boost.  
  3. Confront negative self-talk with positive truths. Example: I never do well at timed exams.  Positive truth: It’s true I haven’t done well at timed exams in the past, but I’m open to doing my best today and focusing on the test in front of me.

Here in Student Life, we encourage you to keep going; you’re almost there!

Mentorship and the Importance of a Healthy Mentor-Mentee Relationship


Have you ever thought about the ripple effect of mentorship? Did you know that 90% of people that are mentored want to mentor others? 

As a first-generation student, mentorship during my career has had a great impact in my professional and personal life. The guidance I have received from faculty, staff and peers over the years has been vital in my training and education. 

Academia can be very difficult to navigate without the proper training and guidance. It can also be a very lonely place when you feel like you are the only one going through certain situations. Before I started my graduate program, one of the most common advices I heard at conferences and from other graduate students was on finding a good mentor. I’m sure you have heard this and know by now of the importance of having a good match with your advisor/PI. However, creating the “perfect” mentor-mentee relationship in graduate school can be tricky and sometimes difficult. 

This post isn’t dedicated to telling you how to find the “perfect” mentor. Instead, it was created to give you some insight on how to cultivate a healthy mentor-mentee relationship.

1. Know it’s worth to build a healthy relationship: You don’t want to have a miscerable time during your graduate program because of your advisor. Although it may not be easy at first, it will pay off over the years. Your relationship with your mentor will be important for your graduate years and even after you earn your degree.

2. Have an open dialogue: Be up front about what is going on with your research. Your advisor/PI has been in your shoes and they know that it means to be a graduate student. School happens, personal problems rise, experiments fail. Be honest (don’t make excuses) and he/she will understand better what is going on in your professional and personal life.

3. Learn to accept constructive criticism: Your advisor/PI wants the best for you, be receptive to their advice and learn how to take criticism. At the end, they are trying to help you prepare for your future career.

4. Show gratitude: Be respectful of your mentor’s time and efforts. Advisors/PIs appreciate when you have a clear agenda in mind, show up on time, and be honest about progress and challenges. Remember, it’s a two-way relationship.

5. Continue the mentorship cycle: For some of us, mentorship can be a form of giving back and self-care. It’s a way to give back to your community, inspire younger generations, and pave the way for other students to come. 

Academic Guilt: Stay Out of the Trap


Graduate student guilt? Oh yeah, I am sure you’ve heard of it and even experienced it by now. It is the guilt that many of us experience when we are not constantly working on school related assignments, writing our thesis/dissertation, conducting experiments, reading articles, etc. It is the guilt that we feel when we are spending time with our friends instead of responding to those emails or working 24/7. 

I’m trying to relax but I know I could be working

Just this past weekend, I found myself feeling “guilty” for spending time with a friend I had not seen in a long time. I suggested going to a coffee shop so we could chat and afterwards I could work on my thesis while she read a book. Am I a bad friend for suggesting such activity? Maybe not. However, I realized that probably I deserved some time off after writing and working all week.

Why do we experience graduate student guilt? Perhaps, it has to do with the structure of graduate school. There is not a set line of instructions that tell you how much time is required for reading, writing, working – there is not a 40-hour work week or 9-5. In addition, flexibility really varies among the different degree programs and within each student individually. We are in a stage where we are responsible for the balance between being a student and being an adult. On top of that, we are faced with the expectation that academia comes with busyness, high demands, and the need to work 24/7. 

Although graduate student guilt is very common in academic, below are some tips that may help you lower those guilt feelings:

1. “Busy” is not a merit badge: We often find ourselves being prideful of our busy life to measure up against others. We get it, we know everyone is smart and busy in graduate school. Instead, focus on taking a positive attitude towards those opportunities given to you and focus on those concrete goals.

2. Plan your breaks: My first year at JHSPH, a 5th year PhD student told me “Weekends are sacred and I don’t work during that time”. Although I have not been able to execute his advice, it is important to schedule breaks just like you schedule your class time. It will become part of your routine and you won’t feel as guilty. 

3. Ask for help: Some great advantages of graduate school are the collaborations and relationships you make with others. If you are having difficulties completing a task at a timely manner, ask for help. We understand people are usually busy but oftentimes they will help (or at least explain it to you).

4. Remember, you are a person: It is okay to take breaks. It is okay to take time for self-care. It is okay to spend time with friends and have a life outside of school. Your mental and physical health are important. Don’t take them for granted. 

Begin Again

By Jessica Harrington, Director

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Although no one can go back and make a brand-new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand-new ending.
-James Sherman, Rejection

Welcome to another term and a new year! Here are some tips for a good start (or to encourage you to keep going in case you’ve already started!):

  1. Simplify. Webster’s definition of simplify says, “to reduce to basic essentials… diminish complexity.” Author/blogger, Leo Babauta, offers another definition to consider for everyday life: “It [simplify] means getting rid of the clutter so you are left with only that which gives you value.”  Babauta’s post, Simple Living Manifesto: 72 Ideas to Simplify Your Life, elaborates on suggestions which may benefit busy grad students in particular. Some of my favorites from the list: learn to say no, limit media consumption, be present, learn to do nothing!  If you get a moment, take a long glance at the post and see what inspires you to declutter physically, mentally, and emotionally. When you find yourself overwhelmed this term, just take one moment to simplify.
  2. Show your body some love! Over the years, I’ve learned that while public health students value the public’s health, they are prone to forget to nourish their own bodies through exercise and nutrition.  Consider this list of workout apps and check out the PDF copy of The Good and Cheap Cookbook by Leanne Brown  (note: thank you to the JHSPHer who suggested the cookbook!!).  
  3. Make A Plan to Manage Distractions and Resume Work!  Focus is a necessary component in the academic journey and distractions are inevitable. One researcher suggests those who make a “ready-to-resume” plan may be able to bounce back from distractions and return to their work more efficiently. The plan doesn’t have to be a lengthy list. The article notes, “Even a minute’s work will do, to note where you left off, and where to resume, what challenges are left, and/or what actions (you) must postpone but resume later.”
  4. Learn to Think Fast and Slow. Given that students live at the pace of an eight week term, this interesting excerpt from Daniel Kahneman’s book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, is a reminder to be deliberative in our thinking especially in problem solving. It’s important to know the difference between reacting and responding.
  5. Build in time to pause from technology. Most of us are aware of how detrimental it is to stare at our screens for hours on end.  The Time Out app (also suggested by a student) is another mechanism that provides prompts and reminders to pause. Give it a try.