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Alumna finds passion for public health at Pacific

Name: Katie Lim

Graduation year: May 2023

Major/minors: BS Health studies (now called public health and community wellness), economics minor

Experiential learning: Pre-Health Society, Health Policy Intern at St. Joseph’s Medical Center

Post-grad job: Medical scribe

Hometown: Stockton, CA

Katie Lim started her college career as a chemistry major, but quickly realized she wasn’t interested in a clinical pathway. When she switched her major to health studies (now called public health and community wellness), she found a passion for public health and community on campus with like-minded professors and students interested in making a difference in the health care field.

Why did you decide to attend Pacific?

I grew up in Stockton and I’ve lived here my whole life. For my first year of college, I was at a different university but I felt like it wasn’t the right fit for me. The classes were a lot bigger and I didn’t have as much contact with my professors because there were so many students.

When I decided to come back to Stockton and attend Pacific, I had more of a personal connection with my professors and I felt like I was truly a part of the Pacific community.

Are there any specific professors that really impacted you?

I had a really close-knit relationship with Dr. Peter Wang, Dr. Suzanne Cox, and Dr. Allison Alkon. They  supported me as a student, and also a human being. I felt like I could talk to them about what was going on in my personal life in addition to asking for help with the class materials.

I’ve been able to ask for their advice, even after graduating from Pacific. For example, I asked them for letters of recommendation and advice when I applied to jobs and various internship programs.

What made you want to go into health studies (public health)?

I was originally a chemistry major but after taking the upper division classes, I realized that it wasn’t what I wanted to study anymore. I switched my major to biology, but I still didn’t enjoy what I was studying. I realized that I didn’t want to work in the clinical side of health care, such as performing surgery.

At that point, I wasn’t sure what I would do next. Then I looked through the catalog of majors and I noticed health studies (public health). The classes focused more on the psychosocial aspect of health, which interested me a lot more. After switching my major, I definitely noticed that I felt more engaged in my classes. I felt like I could really see myself working in public health in the future.

“I hope I can make a difference in the health outcomes of my community through the field of public health.”

– Katie Lim ’23

What classes were most helpful to you?

I think the classes that helped me the most were Healthcare Administration and Intro to Public Health. I think those two really solidified my idea of what I could do in the future with public health and health care administration. I learned about why people were having health problems more often compared to others for reasons such as socioeconomic status and race. The emphasis on the social determinants of health explained many of the issues that people face in our current society and what can be done to resolve these issues.

What experiential learning opportunities did you have at Pacific outside of the classroom?

I served as the Vice President of Public Health and the Publicity Officer for the Pre-Health Society. We regularly brought in guest speakers to talk about their careers and educational history. It was really interesting to see the different careers that people were interested in within the health care field, such as public health officers, physician assistants and nurse practitioners. Even though we were studying different material in our classes, the topic of public health had an application in all our fields of study.

I also worked as a Health Policy Intern at St. Joseph’s Medical Center, which gave me exposure to the behind-the-scenes work of health policy and hospital administration. Both of these experiences honed my leadership and communication skills that I am using in my current job.

Can you tell me about what you’re doing now?

I’m working as a medical scribe at a cardiology clinic. I go into the exam rooms with the doctor, and I document the patient’s past medical history, current symptoms, vital signs, and results from labs and cardiac studies as dictated by the physician. I feel like this is a good balance between the clinical and non-clinical side of health care. I can learn about the social determinants of health and the business aspect of health care without having a direct connection to patients’ medical treatment plans.

How do you feel Pacific prepared you to work in public health?

My time at Pacific definitely helped me see what I wanted and didn’t want for my career. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the major, I was able to learn about business and economics when it is applied to the medical field. For example, I learned about the problems within the health care system, such as the rising costs of care and how effective businesses are structured.

What are your career goals?

After a year of working, I plan to get my Master of Public Health. Most of these graduate programs require a year or more of relevant work experience after graduating from undergrad, so I still have some time to figure out which aspect of health care administration I would like to work with. I hope I can make a difference in the health outcomes of my community through the field of public health.

Do you have any advice for incoming public health students?

I would say the biggest thing that helped me was reaching out to my professors, whether it was to get internships or help with an assignment. When I first started college, I was afraid to approach my professors, but having one-on-one interactions with my professors had a significant impact on me. Also, try to form study groups with the people that you have in your classes, because it can get lonely if you just stay in your own bubble.

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