Program: Bachelor of Science in Public Health
Area of Emphasis: Patient Navigation
Hometown: Cranberry Township, PA

It was overcast and rainy the day Jessica Tan visited WVU campus. It didn’t matter. She knew right away this is where she wanted to be.

This May, Tan will be among the first undergraduate students graduating from the School of Public Health’s new Patient Navigation area of emphasis. She knew the Public Health major was the right fit for her just like WVU.

“I knew I wanted to study public health when I realized the everyday tasks I was performing were all linked to public health. People are alive and well today due to public health initiatives,” said Tan.

While she loved the big university atmosphere of WVU, Tan also appreciated the small class sizes in the School of Public Health.

“I really got to know my peers and connected with my professors,” said Tan. “I really enjoyed all the classes because each professor has been so passionate about their research and the course they were teaching.”

In particular, Tan says Lindsay Allen, Ph.D., has had a significant impact on her.

“Dr. Allen is a wonderful professor and an amazing person overall. She truly cares about her students,” said Tan. “She has helped me learn so much and continues to motivate me to pursue my dreams.”

Throughout her Public Health coursework, Tan says her brain has been rewired to think in terms of public health and about prevention efforts that could keep people safe. Her experience at WVU has also allowed her to see the world differently.

“I come from a suburban/urban area and have never really been in a rural community before,” said Tan. “In my Public Health classes, I quickly realized the different barriers a person might face when they live in a rural area and that really motivated me to learn ways to help people overcome these barriers.

The Patient Navigation area of emphasis in the Public Health major was just the right path for Tan. The courses prepare students to become members of healthcare teams that help individuals overcome barriers to quality care, including access, literacy, transportation and more. Patient Navigators – or PNs – assist individuals in reducing and eliminating barriers to health care access and in negotiating complex health delivery systems.

“WVU and the School of Public Health have really opened my eyes to find ways to help different people,” said Tan. “It has made me realize that every person has different needs, and it is important to listen to what they want and need instead of assuming.”

Now that she’s ready to graduate, Tan says she is looking forward to putting her skills to work and making a difference.

“I plan on being a patient navigator once I graduate because I want to gain experience and apply what I have learned to improve the healthcare system,” said Tan. “My ultimate career goal is to travel to developing countries and help strengthen health systems.”