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Lauren Kroening, MPH/MSW '16

“If you work with people, you work with trauma; that’s just how it is, whether you’re a counselor or a health policy maker.”

The decision for Lauren Kroening to enroll in the MPH/MSW program was to her as unanticipated as it was indisputable. While a junior at Houghton College, on track to graduate with bachelor’s degrees in English Literature and in Writing, Kroening had a moment of clarity for what lay ahead. “My grandpa passed away that year,” she shares, “and I remember worrying about how lonely he might have felt the last year of his life – and how unfortunate it was that I was having this realization after it was too late for me to do anything to help him. But I wanted to do something.” She stayed up late that very night, researching possible career paths in nursing homes, in hospitals, or community centers. “Then suddenly,” Kroening states, “social work seemed obvious. It even made sense in the context of my English degree – the part of reading that I enjoyed the most was the human element; sympathizing with characters and situations that I had never experienced myself.”

As for choosing the dual degree with public health, the decision was similarly natural and rooted in her love of reading. “I had heard that UB had a great social work program, and while researching it, I discovered the option for an MSW/MPH degree. Well, I had spent the better part of my high school years considering being an Epidemiologist – reading books about yellow fever, influenza, vaccines, nearly majoring in Biology – and so when I saw the dual degree option, it was like all of my interests had come full-circle.”

Before entering the MPH/MSW program with a concentration in Community Health and Health Behavior, Kroening was admittedly unsure how the two disciplines connected, but she quickly learned otherwise.  “Within the first week of my social work classes, something clicked,” she remembers. “The two fields fit together in my mind so tightly that I could no longer look at a social work issue without seeing its public health implications, and vice versa. I don’t think there is a single issue that can’t benefit from being viewed at a different angle. And that’s why interdisciplinary training is so rewarding.”

After completing her first-year internship at Erie County Medical Center, Kroening thought ahead to the upcoming year, during which she would fulfill her core public health requirements and not complete an internship. “I was worried of falling out of touch with the social work skills I had begun learning,” she states. To remedy this concern, Kroening approached Sue Green, clinical associate professor, about volunteering at the Institute on Trauma and Trauma-Informed Care, an experience that she sees as relevant and enriching to both degrees. “I think trauma is the link between the majority of the work that social workers and public health practitioners do. If you work with people, you work with trauma; that’s just how it is, whether you’re a counselor or a health policy maker. And so I’m excited to bring this perspective into the workforce, where it may or may not be shared by others, because I think it’s critically important.”