Nepali Melina Dahit Earning First American College Degree in Online Master’s Program

Seeing how the COVID-19 pandemic affected patients firsthand inspired Melina Dahit to return to college for a master’s degree.

“During the pandemic, I understood more about the importance of public health with the rising number of COVID-19 cases, health education and educating the community,” she said. “I worked in a federally-qualified hospital, educating individuals about vaccinations, so I was part of the community, as well.”

Dahit is on track to graduate from the online Master of Public Health (MPH) program at Eastern Washington University (EWU) in December 2022. She will complete the program in 14 months.

“One of the main reasons I chose EWU was that it’s a CEPH [Council on Education for Public Health]-accredited program,” she said. “Also, I am working full time, and it’s more comfortable for me to work and study at the same time because I am in the medical field.

“It’s also a cost-effective program. When I talked to the graduate admissions office, they responded in a timely manner and answered all my questions. Everything felt positive. I got good guidance before I enrolled at EWU.”

Now a clinical research coordinator at Methodist Health System in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, Dahit enjoys the flexibility of the online format — especially since she changed jobs while in the program.

“This is my first time doing any online classes,” she said. “It’s been challenging but pretty manageable. I have been getting a lot of guidance from the professors. They always get back to me quickly when I have a question, which helps a lot.”

Culture Shift

Dahit graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery from Nepal Medica College Teaching Hospital in her homeland, Nepal, in 2018. She came to the United States with her family the following year.

“I love helping patients and educating them,” she said. “I wanted to go deeper when explaining things to them. When I was in medical school in undergrad, one of the programs was community medicine.

“I have done that from the beginning. I have that track record of using my public health and medical knowledge to help each other. Those two things are complementary.”

So far, Epidemiology is Dahit’s favorite course in the online Master of Public Health program curriculum, although each of the courses has been beneficial to her career.

“I did a case study about salmonella, and I liked my project in Epidemiology,” she said. “I enjoy doing research. I have used what I have learned in the master’s program about health promotions and research at my job.

“It also familiarized me with the grant-writing process. I don’t do any grant writing at my current job, but the information I have learned in the master’s degree program is still applicable.”

The decision to enroll at EWU is paying dividends for Dahit, who landed her current role in July 2022. She worked in clinical support for Heartland Health Center and Medical and Behavioral when she enrolled at EWU.

“The program has already worked out well for me,” she said. “Having a master’s degree will open up a lot of opportunities for me in my career.”

Renaissance Woman

Dahit will be the first person in her immediate family to earn a master’s degree or any degree in the United States. She will travel to Cheney and walk the graduation stage at the commencement ceremony later this year.

“My family and friends are all supportive of me going back to school and getting a master’s degree,” she said. “I am looking forward to being there in person to celebrate the accomplishment and see the campus.”

Once she graduates from the online Master of Public Health program, Dahit will know which direction she hopes to take her career next.

“I am planning to look into becoming an epidemiologist, although I know that it’s a very competitive field,” she said. “I look forward to the challenge.”

While she enjoys walking and trying different restaurants in her free time, Dahit looks forward to the final months of the online master’s degree program, graduation day and returning home to Nepal for the first time since she left four years ago.

Now that she has completed most of the online master’s degree program at EWU, she has some advice for potential students:

“I would recommend applying the knowledge that you learn in public health in the real world and not getting the degree just for the sake of getting it. Having a clear reason of what you want to do after earning a master’s degree is important, as well. Eastern Washington is a great place to do it.”

Learn more about EWU’s online Master of Public Health program.

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