Joel Merriman, MPH '12

A 2012 graduate, Merriman is now stationed in Buffalo with the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.

A Relentless Pursuit of Gaining Public Health Experience

“The increased visibility of public health today is exciting!" he exclaimed. “There is a huge amount of opportunity available to recent graduates. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise – stay informed, seek out mentors and advocates, be persistent, practice interviewing – you will be rewarded. A public health degree is incredibly versatile.”

In January 2015, Merriman joined the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and is currently stationed in Buffalo, NY. “I am thrilled to be promoting public health in Western New York in this capacity,” Merriman stated.

Joel was an epidemiologist for the State of Montana for two years prior to becoming a Commissioned Corps officer. In Montana, Joel managed three grants totaling over $300,000, consulted with local health jurisdictions on managing and preventing communicable disease outbreaks, traveled to hospitals across the state to validate healthcare associated infection data, provided infection prevention education, managed and assisted in the development of a child and adult lead surveillance program, and was the recipient of a 2014 Governor’s Award for Excellence in Performance alongside his colleagues for their work on implementing a web-based disease surveillance system across the state.

“I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would have been promoting public health in a state as beautiful as Montana. I thank my friend, and mentor, Dr. Richard Lee, every day for encouraging me to become a public health cowboy.”

Job Seeking Advice

“I was spending 4-8 hours applying to two positions per day during the last year of graduate school, and six months post-graduation. I used at least 20 different resume and cover letter versions to see what worked best. I maintained an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of the status of close to 150 active applications. Name a job search engine, social media platform, government website…I was using it. I carried an index card with a seemingly endless list of encrypted log-in usernames and passwords. The job seeking process was, and still is, a thrill for me.”

Like most enthusiastic public health graduates, Merriman was eager to become indispensable, anywhere, for anyone. “Apply to at least three positions for every one position that you are the slightest bit interested in. Apply to everything! If you truly embrace rejection through corrective action, you will quickly become a fantastic interviewer. Be objective, truthful, and humble on your resume. Know your audience. Develop and promote your vision for the future public health.”

The UB Experience

For his integrative project, which applies knowledge gained in program courses to a current public health issue, Merriman decided to explore the expanding field of air quality. “Specifically, my study proposed better air pollution exposure assessment methods using smartphone-enabled technology,” he said. “This was an awesome opportunity because I was able to experience how a research study works from beginning to end.”

Merriman’s field experience was spent at Ecology and Environment, Inc. in Lancaster, New York where he consulted on a variety of environmental engineering projects around the world.