Dave Palmer had been out of school for 28 years before enrolling in the Career Master of Public Health (CMPH) program at Rollins School of Public Health.
"I have three boys—college aged—and I could not have gone back to school without my scholarship," says Palmer, who benefitted from a grant from the Georgia Health Foundation (GHF). Rollins matches the grant to provide full tuition for students in the CMPH program, the school's distance learning program for working professionals.
Prior to enrolling in the program, Palmer worked for seven years as a state public health information officer. Today he serves in that role with the Emergency Preparedness and Response program in Northeast Georgia. He covers 13 counties in his health district, based in the Gainesville, Georgia, office where physician Dave Westfall 09CMPH is the district health director with the Georgia Department of Health. Like Palmer, Westfall is a GHF scholarship recipient and now teaches health care management to CMPH students in the classroom and online.
"The online experience was new to me," says Palmer, who earned an undergraduate degree in journalism at the University of Georgia in 1981. "I was a traditional student who attended school in the classroom. So online learning was different. It took me a while to understand the tools, but once I did, it was an easy path."
His CMPH degree broadened his understanding of public health in general and his knowledge of policies, objectives, and initiatives in the community. "I learned how to communicate to the public and educate people about health conditions and about our mission to help people," he says.
He also learned how to take a positive approach to improve their health through prevention and public preparedness. Tobacco cessation is one example. "We talk to people in communities to explain to them the medical and financial reasons for why it is best to stop smoking," he says. "We tell them, 'You will feel better, breathe better, and spend a lot less money.' "
Palmer's degree has enhanced his professional life in other ways. "I have a better understanding of policy," he says. "Now I look at public health issues at the state and federal level as well as at the county and local level. I can better explain data to reporters and public health to others. From the courses I took at Rollins, I learned much that we can utilize in our current work to enhance the safety and well-being of citizens in Northeast Georgia."