"The Time to Be in Public Health": A Conversation With Online MPH Student Leah Cross

Headshot of MPH student Leah Cross.

Leah Cross, a student in the Online Master of Public Health (MPH) program at Tulane University, feels her timing is just right.

“With this pandemic going on, a lot of people are feeling like there’s no hope,” Cross says. “This is definitely the time where we just have to come together and be that resource for our communities — local and national. This is the time to be in public health.”

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cross studies and works remotely to build an impactful career in public health. Along the way, she is forging valuable relationships with colleagues and professors in this growing field.

A Newfound Passion for Public Health

Originally from New Orleans, Cross’ family relocated to Ponchatoula, Louisiana, in 2005, following Hurricane Katrina. After earning her Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology from Southeastern Louisiana University, Cross learned about Tulane’s public health program from a friend who knows she is civic-minded and has a heart for helping others.“

I was in student government association and different organizations as an undergraduate,” Cross says. “I realized I really like public policy and being a voice for others who don't have the same opportunities as others do. I did more research, and I thought [the Tulane program] was a great fit for me.”

A Future in Politics

Currently in her second semester, Cross plans to work on Capitol Hill after graduation. She hopes to gain a few years of hands-on experience influencing policy changes in health care.“

There’s so much farther we can go,” she says. "I want to be working on the front lines helping with the health disparities that we have in our communities right now. I want to be a part of that change."

Like a Family

In her first semester, Cross studied epidemiology and the foundations of public health. She quickly bonded with her fellow students."

It's like a family — something bigger than yourself," she says.

Cross and other students in the program often chat before class or email each other to check in. She says, “We would meet on Zoom on a Monday night just to see how everyone was doing and if anyone had questions about the lecture.”

Inspiring Mentorship

Cross appreciates the encouragement and guidance of Tulane’s Online MPH program instructors. A notable inspiration is her current biostatistics professor, Dr. Lindsey Ho.

Dr. Ho guides students through math-heavy courses such as epidemiology and biostatistics. He served as an analytics coach for an epidemiology course Cross took last semester, breaking down lesson material and answering questions about weekly lectures.

“He is amazing,” Cross says of Ho. “He really makes you feel like you are already a public health professional. Dr. Ho was able to break down the material in a way that everyone could understand. After his study sessions, students felt more prepared for the exams.”

Life Balance Online

These days, it seems Cross spends most of her waking hours online. In addition to studying remotely, Cross works remotely as well. She is a graduate assistant to Dr. Alicia Battle, associate dean for online programs at Tulane. Cross helps run student experience programs such as virtual happy hours and “On the Front Lines” talks given by alumni working in the public health field.

“Time management comes into play a lot because I work online all day and then I have to go to school online, so it's a lot of being on the computer,” Cross says. “You have to take a lot of breaks. I’m really big on organizing my time and making sure I have time for me.”

On weekends, for instance, she spends time with her family, enjoys stress-relieving activities such as baking cakes, and helps her father with the family real estate business.

“It’s Your Experience; It’s What You Make It”

Through it all, Cross appreciates the opportunity to study at Tulane, a historic and renowned institution. She also feels like a valued part of the Tulane community in the online degree program, which she says is “no better and no worse than getting a degree on-ground.”

“Whatever you do, it's your experience; it’s what you make it,” she adds. “If you want it to be fun, it’s going to be fun. If you want it to be dreadful,it’s going to be dreadful. It’s all about putting yourself out there and making those connections and getting involved with what’s going on at the school.”

Build Your Career in Public Health

Students like Leah Cross come to Tulane University from all kinds of different backgrounds and experiences to pursue their passions and build rewarding careers in public health. In fact, Tulane University, home to the oldest school of public health in the U.S., is now offering online degree programs in specialty areas such as community health sciences, disaster management, and environmental health. Tulane designed these programs to help professionals become socially conscious leaders in their fields and make an impact building healthier communities. Discover how Tulane University’s Online Master of Public Health can help you pursue your career goals.

Recommended Readings:

Choosing Your Path: 9 Public Health Concentrations

Dr. Alicia Battle: An Impactful Career in Public Health Education and Practice

Tulane University’s COVID-19 Response Hub: Regional and National Resources