I got the chance to sit down with Dr. Gleckler, a Public Health professor here at Tulane, to learn more about how she got started in the Public Health field. In this one-on-one interview, she shared advice on the daunting truths of switching your career path to find work that you are passionate about.
Q: Where did you go to college and what was your initial career plan?
A: I went to the University of Oregon where I studied painting and printmaking. By the time of graduation, I realized that in order to continue with this, I needed to have a certain “fire in the belly.” I felt as if painting and printmaking did not impassion me to a level in which I felt completely compelled to pursue this for the rest of my life.
Q: What were your next moves?
A: I ended up becoming a commercial artist and involved with graphic design—I would produce artwork that would then be taken to print. I designed artwork that appeared in magazines, on logos, and corporate materials. After years of doing this, I became an art director who was in charge of supervising other graphic designers.
Q: When and why did you decide to make a change?
A: Even though I was being paid well, I felt as if I was selling things that were meaningless; my profession became less about the actual art and more about the selling involved. I needed to do something meaningful. It was a risky move professionally, but I ended up giving up my job and joining the Peace Corps.
Q: Were you scared?
A: Of course. I knowingly was giving up a job that I knew I would never be able to come back to. I was really scared but at the same time, I was strongly compelled to make a change.
Q: Where was your mission located and what did you learn during your time there?
A: I was in Belize during the Nicaraguan Revolution. While there, I gained an incredible education in foreign history and affairs. Prior to my travels, I thought that I was a pretty well-read person. However, once I was in Belize, I realized that there was so much more to learn. I understood the view of international politics from those who are on the receiving end; I had many, many interesting conversations with incredible people who were able to challenge my beliefs. I ended up learning that everything that we do, on a personal and national level, affects others. I really needed these lessons. Aside from this, I also learned how lovely people are! The people in Belize were so nice and generous to me without any reason! Finally, I learned how to have a good time without much. On a typical day, someone would pull out a guitar, we would all sit around a fire and have really great conversations.
Q: How did you end up becoming involved in Public Health?
A: While I was in Belize, I actually met the UNICEF director at that time. He found out that I was skilled in design marketing and he put me to work! The work that I started to do showed me that I could combine public health with my existing passions. I helped to design graphics that spread awareness of public health issues and announcements. For example, I worked on graphics for World Aids Day and to promote fresh eating.
Q: How did you end up in NOLA?
A: As I became more involved in the field of public health, I met a Tulane professor who told me that no one would ever pay attention to my ideas if I did not have an MPH. I came to New Orleans with $350 in my bank account and followed his advice! When I finally earned my degree, I became involved with teaching and with the Office of Public Health in Louisiana. At the Office of Public Health, I met some incredible people and did incredible work that inspired me to pursue a doctorate degree.
Q: What are some of your hobbies?
A: Bee-keeping, gardening, going to boot camp, reading, painting, looking at art, biking, sailing and riding horses.
Q: If you had to require students to read one book, what would it be and why?
A: Between the World and Me. This book is beautiful and if you are going to live in the south, you need to understand its message.
Q: What is some advice that you can offer to students pursuing a future in Public Health?
A: Do not shut down your interests in other things. The field of Public Health is so broad that if you love something else, it can be a part of the foundation for your career. Who would have thought that someone who studied art and painting in college would go on to work in Public Health? The walls that exist between different disciplines should not exist anymore, especially not in this generation.
Q: Are there any leadership roles/opportunities for student involvement within your department?
A: There is a Public Health club. We also have so many internship resources available and are in touch with researchers who are looking for undergraduate help on projects. I actually would like to see more student involvement within the department.
Q: What kind of person do you think would be most successful working in Public Health?
A: There is room for everyone! Artists, mathematicians, and journalists alike are all vital to the field. The field is so broad! There is also room for extroverts/introverts and those that are analytical/intuitive.
Students should jump at the chance to be in one of Dr. Gleckler’s classes. She is passionate about what she teaches and genuinely wants her students to succeed! Plus, the classes are never boring; the material is presented in an engaging way and Dr. Gleckler never fails to crack a joke.
Next semester, Dr. Gleckler will be teaching Intro to Public Health, Public Health Communication, and a class on Social and Behavioral Perspectives in Public Health.