Most people go to college and stay for about four years. But not Katie McCreedy. By the time she’s done, she’ll have spent eight years at Northeastern University – all of those in the Bouvé College of Health Sciences. She got her BS in Health Science with a minor in Biology in May ‘21, just graduated from Bouvé’s PlusOne program with her MPH in Urban Health in ‘22, and now, will be starting her PhD in Population Health.
She’s been named to the Huntington 100, won the overall award at Northeastern’s Research, Innovation, Scholarship and Entrepreneurship (RISE) Expo, and has been accepted into the highly competitive presidential management fellowship (PMF) within the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
Read on to learn about Katie’s journey at Northeastern and why she decided to become a triple husky.
Q: Katie, why did you join Bouvé?
A: “Well, so far, I’ve chosen Bouvé three times. The first time was because I was really enamored with the idea of co-op, I think that’s probably the answer for everyone. Something I’ve noticed in Bouvé is it’s like 50/50, everyone is interested in some clinical field…. or the people who are interested in law and admin and public health. Originally, I thought about being a biology major and I switched to Bouvé because I wanted to be somewhere where you were going to have students who were doing all those sorts of different subspecialties to help me figure out what area I was most interested in and what I wanted to do. I think that’s the beauty of Bouvé. As I was trying different things and I was working clinically and I was working in research, I would find myself just dreading working clinically and really being excited about research and public health practice. I definitely came out of my bachelor’s feeling like I had exhausted all my various interests. I don’t think I would have pursued an MPH or would have known that I was interested in a PhD if I hadn’t gone to Northeastern.
I spend most of my free time outside and that’s why I chose Bouvé the second time… I love Boston. The proximity to oceans, mountains, hiking, skiing, and being outside is incredible. It’s the perfect mix of a lot of opportunities because Boston is this huge academic hub and this huge public health hub… so it was not a hard choice to choose Boston and then it was not a hard choice to choose Northeastern.
Then the third time because it’s an incredible offer. (Katie was awarded a full scholarship for her 3-year PhD program) I had offers from schools technically considered more prestigious, but I spent a lot of time talking to my mentors… and sometimes there’s this fear of staying at the university that you did your undergrad and your master’s, that you’re sort of staying within the same academic bubble and you’re not going to have the ability to learn new things. I honestly got the feeling that if I went anywhere else, I would be more so in that position because Bouvé really encourages you to try new things, to work outside of the university, to do experiential learning, to do interdisciplinary projects. I just couldn’t turn it down and I’m really glad that I chose it three times.”
Q: What makes Bouvé’s programs special?
A: “It’s very hard to beat the bang for your buck in the BS/MPH. I have friends who graduated from Northeastern and did other MPH programs at other schools and I got my BS and my MPH in a five-year span. I got the exact same number of credits as I would have anywhere else in a much shorter timeline and I was able to work. So, I got way more out of my degree, and you can’t really ask for anything more.”
Q: Share the opportunities you’ve had here and how they have helped you.
A: “I think that work-life balance is the greatest thing I got from Northeastern, and also the ability to build your network is insane. I can talk about Northeastern forever. If there’s any regret I have coming out of Northeastern, it’s that there are more things I would have loved to do that I just didn’t have the time to do because I was already doing too many things, and that’s really not a bad regret to have.
Another big point on opportunity is after my first round of co-op, Northeastern really teaches you that you should be paid for the work that you do, so after my sophomore year, I was never working unpaid. If I was working for a lab at Northeastern, or if I was a TA, or if I was doing research for a professor, or if I was working clinically, I learned how to negotiate a salary, how to ensure that I’m being paid, how to write a grant and get paid for my time. And that’s huge because I could actually work on the things that were important for my career and what I wanted to learn how to do, and not have to also be like walking dogs or having another job.”
Q: Talk about your biggest challenge.
A: “Certainly, the pandemic was quite challenging. I worked in a COVID ICU for four months and I felt like I was able to handle doing that. I got my certified nursing assistant license and then I worked full-time for six or seven months as a medical assistant on co-op and had I not had that kind of preparation and that encouragement to really get practical skills quickly, I would have been going into a summer of working in an ICU during a pandemic very, very clinically unprepared.
I was what’s called a float nursing assistant because I was per diem so I would pick up shifts as needed. So, you call up every day and you’re like, what do you need help with? And they send you there. And during the pandemic obviously, they needed help with the ICU so pretty much every time I called for a shift, that’s where I went. The reason I worked in the ICU in the first place is I was trying to decide whether I wanted to apply to graduate school, I knew that I either wanted to go to medical school or get my PhD. I had a certified nursing assistant license in the state of New Jersey, which at the time had one of the worst outbreaks in the country, and I’m sitting at home with a 20-hour a week remote research internship, that could have been enough, but I just felt guilty sitting at home knowing I’m young, I’m healthy, I have a license, I just felt really guilty not doing anything and that’s probably the fault of Northeastern for encouraging me to constantly do more things. But I came out of it realizing what I love about this is public health, it’s not the one-on-one clinical care.”
Q: What’s next for you?
A: “In the next three years, I think I want to focus on areas I haven’t really been able to explore, like economics and law and the ability to take electives. I think it’s really going to broaden my expertise as a researcher and give me a better understanding of what else I can do with epidemiology. I’m very interested in active field epidemiology, so understanding why certain outbreaks or diseases happen in an area and really going out and playing detective and researching that. I’m hoping to learn more about wilderness epidemiology and medicine, like injury in the outdoors and the number of people who get lost in the outdoors because that’s a topic of importance to me. And secondly, I want to learn more about the actual publication process of writing and publishing, I’ve been involved in that from the front end of submitting and getting published, but not in the back end of actually editing and reviewing and seeing how a journal works and that’s only an opportunity I’ll be afforded as a PhD student.
It’s one thing to be able to mitigate a problem or disaster after it happens, but there’s magic in sort of running a public health program or research to prevent something bad from happening in the first place.
I feel very lucky that Northeastern is giving me a spot to do that fully funded. I still have a lot more to learn. I’ve been here for five years, and I like to work hard, and I like to learn and try everything, and I’m just happy that I get to stick around and keep getting to do what I’m interested in.
I’d love to go back to 17-year-old me and say, you made a good decision.”
Read Katie’s research portfolio here.