Lee Helmken '09
Major: Health and Society
Company: Georgia Institute of Technology
Title: Health Educator
Field of Work: Health CareNon-Medical
What do you do?
I am a health educator in the Office of Health Promotion at Georgia Tech. I am responsible for planning, implementing, and evaluating sexual violence prevention programming, trainings, and outreach. I chair an interdisciplinary committee of faculty, staff, and students and advise a peer education program for sexual violence prevention. I also support the broader efforts of the Office of Health Promotion to empower students to make healthy decisions during and after college.
How did you become interested in your field?
I started at UR as a pre-med/biology major, but quickly realized that I wasn't interested in the science of health care. I switched my major to health and society and fell in love with my courses and the field of public health. Graduate school internships introduced me to the specific field of health promotion in higher education, and I also took classes and worked in the topic of injury and violence prevention, which became my true passion. My current role is a perfect combination of those things.
What, if any, additional education (degree, discipline, institution) have you earned?
Master of Public Health in behavioral sciences and health education from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. I am also a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES).
What skills are vital for success in your field?
First and foremost, this field requires someone with a genuine passion for what they do and a desire to help others and create sustainable social change. To be successful as a health educator, you need to have skills in curriculum development, program planning, and evaluation, as well as strong public speaking and written communication skills. This work is incredibly dynamic and requires someone who can be collaborative and switch gears easily.
What experiences, internships, study, or previous jobs helped you get to your current position?
Through my coursework at UR, I was able to meet a health educator in the Office of Health Promotion. She helped me explore my career options and it was because of her that I decided to pursue a Master of Public Health degree. My graduate school coursework gave me a strong foundation of the skills and topics that I would need to be successful in my career. I held numerous part-time positions in graduate school, two of which led directly to both of my full-time positions since graduating.
What advice do you have for current students interested in your field?
Take advantage of as many opportunities as you can—I am still so grateful for the many academic and cultural perspectives that I gained at UR. Look for ways to apply what you are learning in the classroom to a volunteer experience or part-time job on campus or in the community. In my experience, you never know what you’re truly interested in until you try different things; just one class or internship can lead you down a path you never expected!