Alumni Profile: Sophia Raff Newcomer, MPH ‘07

What degree did you receive from GW's SPHHS? What was your concentration?

Master of Public Health, Epidemiology.

Please tell us about your current position. Can you describe a typical day?

I am a biostatistician at Kaiser Permanente Colorado's Institute for Health Research. My main role is to analyze data for epidemiologic and health services research studies. Most of my work involves managing and analyzing large datasets of electronic health record data using SAS® software.

On a typical day, I am balancing 5-7 projects that are at various stages. I usually spend 80% of my day programming in SAS to work on various analytic tasks for projects. The other 20% of the time I might be meeting with project teams, drafting the methods/results section for a publication, assisting with a grant proposal, or consulting with a senior-level biostatistician on an analytic challenge I am facing on a project. Although most of my work involves working independently to tackle analytic tasks in SAS, there is a lot of collaboration that goes on to move our large research projects forward.

Please tell us about your path from SPHHS to where you are today. How did you get your first job in the field?

During my last semester of graduate school, I began applying for jobs in Denver, Colorado, because my spouse had recently located there. I found the posting for my current job at Kaiser Permanente through the Denver SAS Users Group website. I applied, completed a pre-screening questionnaire (a mini-test on my statistics and study design knowledge), interviewed, and got the job! 

What is the best career advice you have ever received?

Do what you're good at. Identify your strengths and follow them. 

What advice would you give to someone who wants to work in your field?

My advice for anyone who wants to work in public health is to learn an applicable skill, whether it is project management, communications/marketing, SAS programming and statistical analysis, etc. Be sure to leave graduate school with some tools in your public health toolbox. You need to be passionate about protecting the public's health, and you need to be able to show potential employers that you have the tools to aid in doing so.

What was the impetus for getting your SPHHS degree?

As an undergraduate, I had several experiences working on research studies that really piqued my interest in epidemiology and health services research. My first jobs out of college were in healthcare consulting and financial management. I enrolled in the MPH Epidemiology program to move my career toward working in health research.   

Interview conducted April 2013.