Second-year graduate student Heather Clinger, 23, is a vital asset to GW’s School of Public Health and Health Services and to the community. A 1999 GW graduate with a degree in psychology, Clinger continued her education at GW and will graduate in May with a master’s degree in Public Health.
She was just a terrific student in the class, said Nancy Persily, associate dean of the School of Public Health and Health Services. Then she started to apply to graduate schools and since I had been her professor we talked about which graduate schools to apply to. I was very fond of her as a student and I said to her if you get into GW I’ll give you a job as a graduate administrative assistant. She decided on GW, and as promised, she got the job.
Clinger now works as a graduate administrative assistant for Persily. One of her main tasks is assisting Persily in the two classes she teaches by corresponding with students, setting up appointments and scheduling interviews with other potential administrative assistants. But the duties do not end there.
She’s really become the coordinator for me and for all of the graduate administrative assistants that we have, Persily said. She’s been such a strong support within the school partially because she’s worked so much with first year students. She works with admissions and she even gives tours of the school.
Susanne Matthiesen, assistant director of GW’s Wertlieb Educational Institute for long-term care management, works with Clinger on various projects about once a month. Matthiesen said she is impressed with Clinger’s enthusiasm no matter what role she plays.
She takes responsibility for all the different projects we work on, whether she is a lead on them or not, Matthiesen said. She makes things happen because of her attitude. She is someone who has good skills when she works on projects here.
When Clinger is not working or attending classes, she is involved with a community service program called ISCOPES – Interdisciplinary Student Community Oriented Prevention Enhancement Service – a joint program between the School of Public Health and Health Services and the School of Medicine and Health Services. In the program, students from all different areas work together in an interdisciplinary project in the community.
There are twenty different focus groups within ISCOPES and each deals with a different existing program such as Head Start or the Washington Free Clinic, Clinger said. It’s an amazing program because you get to do community work and you get to work with people from different disciplines. It’s really fascinating to see what everyone brings to the table.
The ISCOPES focus group Clinger is a part of works with Healthy Start, a national program that works to alleviate infant mortality. Last year, Clinger’s ISCOPES team conducted site visits to D.C. high schools and a low-income apartment complex to talk to pregnant teenagers about preventing second pregnancies. Clinger said the group explored ways to prevent pregnancy first.
Clinger said the ISCOPES team wanted to study the correlation between infant mortality and teen pregnancy. The group also wanted see how the Healthy Start Program worked within the city.
D.C. has a higher than average infant mortality rate and often pregnant teenagers do not have prenatal check ups or much of a support system, which may lead to infant mortality, Clinger said.
The Healthy Start team conducted focus groups with black and Latino teenagers who were pregnant. Through these meetings, the team was able to find out what the teenagers needed from programs within their schools to help them when they were having a child, worked with them to develop parenting skills and what the program could have offered to prevent their pregnancies in the first place.
From that we got some amazing information from the teens, Clinger said. They’re very open about what they would want from a program. And we took that information and compiled a report and gave it to the Department of Health.
Clinger said her favorite aspect of ISCOPES is the fact that it brings many different kinds of students together.
I like that we are all coming together to work for a common goal, Clinger said. You can actually take what you have been learning in the classroom and apply it to real life.
Matthiesen said Clinger is vital to the outreach programs because she serves as a positive role model to many people.
She is someone who is a mentor to other students who are in her program, to students that are just starting in the school, or to the people in the various programs that she works with, Matthiesen said. She can be helpful to lots of different people.
Clinger said upon graduating she will look for a job in the public health field.
I like working with kids and I love the D.C. area, Clinger said. I’m interested in working with people to have them lead better lives. Health education is something I’m interested in. I’m interested in designing and implementing health education programs.
In her spare time, Clinger enjoys volunteering, spending time with her family and friends, and taking advantage of cultural events around D.C. But she said it is hard for her to find time to juggle everything with her busy schedule.
I like to spend time with family and friends as much as possible, though unfortunately most of the free time each semester is spent studying and doing group projects and papers, she said.