Alumni Spotlight: Brad Rutter – MPH Public Health Policy

What inspired you to pursue an MPH in Public Health Policy? Why did you choose UWM?

I’ve known for quite some time that I wanted to pursue an MPH. The world of public health intrigued me. So much of the world around us (social determinants of health) affect health outcomes for so many populations. One of driving factors of those determinants are laws and policies. I knew that an MPH in Public Health Policy would allow me to broaden that knowledge to become more equipped to work in the field. 

What were some of your favorite experiences as a student at UWM?

While most of my coursework occurred during the peak of the pandemic in 2020-2021, the classes that I did attend in-person were interesting to be part of, and I learned a lot about my classmates’ passion for public health. Public health work is collaborative and it was great to have that be part of the experience.

When I was working at a local health department, it was pretty neat to see familiar faces in the classroom and at local coalition meetings. The Milwaukee public health world is small and we’re all closely connected.

What have you been doing since graduation? Where are you working today?

After graduation, I accepted a position at the U.S. Department of Agriculture—Food and Nutrition Services in their Midwest Regional Office. I’m still working there as a Senior Program Specialist in their Food Distribution programs. While it’s a different perspective of public health than I’ve been used to, it’s been great to learn more and work in programs that have been around for quite some time, such as the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), and the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR). There are so many moving parts that help keep these programs functioning and many more policies and regulations than I could have imagined. Definitely a great fit for someone that enjoys reading federal regulations for much of the day!

What are some of your proudest accomplishments as a public health professional?

During my time at Zilber, I worked as Public Health Specialist at the South Milwaukee/St. Francis Health Department. Having the opportunity help contribute to their Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) was a rewarding process that I enjoyed. Meetings with stakeholders, organizing survey data, and report compiling were interesting experiences that help make me a better public health professional. 

Earlier during my undergraduate years, I participated in one of CDC’s Undergraduate Public Health Scholars programs at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. This was one of my first formal introductions to public health. It was one of my favorite experiences to learn about various fields within public health, work with a diverse group of individuals, and tour a bit of the CDC. 

Did you do any internships or fieldwork as part of your program at UWM? How did that prepare you for your career in public health?

I completed my fieldwork at one of my previous employers, Safe & Sound. This organization’s primary mission is three-fold to promote neighborhood safety, engage community members, and youth together to build collective impact. Collective impact is part of Public Health 3.0 and it was eye-opening to see how an organization that wouldn’t normally be considered in the public health sphere can create change and contribute to improving health outcomes in communities. 

What difference to you most hope to make in the world through your work in public health?

Creating a difference in the world of public health can be difficult and most of us individually won’t be able to make any sizeable impact alone. While that might sound discouraging, I think that it’s a positive aspect as it means that people/communities need to work collectively to create change, which can have an even larger effect. The difference I hope to make lies in these communities to be part of positive change that is community-driven and motivates people to keep working for better outcomes.

What advice do you have for someone considering pursing a degree and career in Public Health Policy?

Advice I was given earlier on and have taken was to take any opportunity that is put in front of you and seek out ones that interest you. Especially in policy-work, it’s important to be assertive in searching for opportunities, no matter how small they seem. Like I mentioned earlier, the world of public health (inside and out of Milwaukee) is not as large as it might seem. The work we do often is seen and heard, often when we’re not aware, so be sure to put a best effort forward to be proud of your work!