Spotlight on Social Sciences Alumni: Rene Herbert


Name: René Herbert

Occupation: Public Health Analyst with the U.S Dept. of Health and Human Services

Education (UR and additional): University of Rochester, BA; Yale University, MPH; and University of Maryland College Park, PhD

Current city/state/country of residence: Washington, DC
Location of your study abroad experience:
London, United Kingdom

Duration of your study abroad experience: Fall Semester

Community activities: Interned at the Department of Public Health, took classes in London.  Hung out with coworkers, traveled to 5 cities within the United Kingdom, and 5 countries in the European Union.

When and why did you choose to study abroad? What factors (your major, other commitments, Take Five) did you weigh as you were making the decision to study abroad?

I decided I wanted to study abroad my sophomore year at UR.  I wanted to study abroad because I wanted to travel the Europe like my father did at my age as well as broaden my horizons in terms of the different culture and health care system in London.  I was hoping that studying abroad to the UK would allow me to gain internship opportunities working in the health care system.  In making the decision to study abroad I definitely had to weigh the organizations and groups I would not be involved with on campus because of my time away.  I also had to decide early on how I would be able to go abroad without putting at risk my academic success at school.

Who at UR encouraged you to pursue this option?

My friends who also studied abroad and also were the in the same major (Health and Society/Health Policy) as me.  They strongly encouraged me to study abroad in London.  My mentor and academic advisor encouraged me to study abroad in England because of the career exposure that it would provide.

In retrospect, what do you wish you had known before starting your study abroad experience?

I wish I knew that I could take advantage of traveling to other European countries once I arrived in the United Kingdom. 

Beyond the academic work, how did you engage with your new “community” and culture while you were away from Rochester?

I totally submerged myself in the culture.  I really started to get involved in my internship at the Department of Public Health in London.  I traveled with my mentor at my internship across of London.  In addition, I also got involved with the International student community and took weekend trips with friends to all other parts of England and the United Kingdom.

What was returning to campus like for you?

Surreal. I missed London very much but I also felt that I was afforded an opportunity to see the world in a broader perspective than the United States.  I felt accomplished and ready to take on whatever I experienced on campus. 

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

I immediately continued on to graduate school. I knew I wanted to pursue my interest in public health.  For me it was the next logical step. I also decided to try out different student jobs and internships over the summer to determine if I really wanted to go on to graduate school immediately after college.  For me, my internships and my undergraduate major helped me make the decision.  I do however recognize some of my friends who decided to work or to travel etc. before pursuing graduate school and they really had a good time.  Everyone figures out their path differently.  

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

I currently work at the United States Department of Health and Human Services as a Public Health Analyst for the United States Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, DC.  I work on health care programs related to marginalized populations in addition to implementation of the new health care reform law specifically around expanding services for integrating behavioral health services into primary health care, increasing the enrollment of the uninsured into the Marketplace and also expanding services at current health center site locations.  I choose this career my first semester at UR.  I knew I wanted to be in health care but not as a medical professional.  Health and Society broaden my horizons to pursuing health care policy and administration. 

What skills, tools, or knowledge gained from studying abroad do you draw on since graduation?

Since graduation, I definitely draw on the different ways people live, view their life and health and how they all related.  I definitely keep in mind that just because I think a certain way about something does not make it the best way or the only way. 

Where would you like to be in five years?

In five years, professionally I would like to be teaching health policy, public health or public policy at an academic institution as well as working in academic services providing student academic mentorship in pursuing higher education beyond college.  Personally, I am also building my family and faith in God.  I think balancing the two of them would be part of my journey over the next five years.

What advice do you have for current students contemplating studying abroad?

Do it!  Make sure you have taken the majority of your core courses for your major and prioritize your academic requirements.