Master of Public Health Alumni Spotlight: Larry Williams

Larry Williams, DDS, MPH

NIU Master of Public Health graduate, Larry Williams,  DDS, MPH (’17)  is an associate professor in dentistry at the College of Dental Medicine-Illinois (CDMI), Midwestern University, Downers Grove Illinois. We asked him about his work and why he pursued his MPH at NIU.
What does your work entail?  I coordinate pre-clinical courses for 130 students in each class, plus give lectures on a variety of dental topics. Most of these topics include some degree of public health information. I am also the CDMI coordinator for One Health. This is a comprehensive public health program that looks at the impact the CDMI curriculum has on their understanding of how dentistry relates to the world/environment.

What is the most important skill or knowledge you learned through your MPH studies that you apply to your current role? I learned very quickly that public health pertains to almost every facet of dentistry. The materials, the environment, infection control, immunizations, access to care, aging, planning for grants, doing research, epidemiology … the list goes on. The MPH has been so very valuable.

What do you like most about your work? It allows me to impact the very beginning of a student’s professional development. By including public health in their development, it becomes a significant part of their education experience.

Why did you pursue an MPH degree, and why NIU? The funny thing is that I was in the U.S. Navy for 30 years as a dentist and in many of my positions I received on-the-job training in public health. Since I was so busy, I decided to get my MPH once I retired, which I did. Having a full-time job as faculty at CDMI required that I achieve my MPH online. Based on my research and conversations with former grads, the NIU program was my best choice. I am so glad that I did attend the program.

After enrolling as a student, what appealed to you most about the MPH program at NIU? What appealed most was the opportunity to collaborate with other professionals who had jobs and other real-life experiences in public health. This diversity allowed me to gain a much broader experience. On a similar level, many of the issues we discussed in the course were also issues for my coursework at CDMI. It was a great win-win.

Do you have any suggestions for potential applicants and/or students? Be flexible and hungry. This coursework is not a checkbox. There are real people with real public health needs that need our help. Any student taking this program should be dedicated to address these needs.
Final thoughts… Finishing this MPH at the age of 61 was a real challenge. I started the program while recovering from a heart attack and a quad bypass. I could have taken time off, but I knew this step in my education was too important. My father taught me that “knowledge gained and not shared is wasted.” I greatly appreciate the NIU faculty that shared their knowledge and I look forward to sharing my gained knowledge with my students and they in turn will share it with the patients they treat.

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