Mitchell Bowden, Health Promotion Project Manager
Degree: Bachelor of Health Sciences and Bachelor of Social Work double-degree
Passions: Improving health literacy, especially among minorities
Mitchell graduated from a Monash Bachelor of Health Sciences/Bachelor of Social Work combined degree in 2013. He got his foot in the door thanks to volunteering a day a week in a health promotion role for the last six months of his study. Since then, he’s worked in numerous roles in health promotion, developing skills in each one. He’s worked in health literacy, refugee health, quality evaluation, quality improvement and healthcare communications in local councils and primary care.
Mitchell’s main advice to new graduates is to volunteer or take on relevant part-time work, network as much as you can, and be open-minded and adaptable.
Current role: Health Promotion Project Manager
When you first graduated, could you see a clear career path or were you uncertain?
It was so unclear to me. I had a vague notion that I wanted to work in health promotion. I remember feeling able to think about two years into the future, beyond that was completely unknown. Many jobs I saw advertised wanted someone with work experience, which was disheartening.
How did you get your foot in the door with your first job?
I focused quite heavily on my social work placements, and during my final year I grew concerned that I was lacking hands-on experience in health promotion. I decided to volunteer one day a week for the last six months of my study. They appreciated my skills and work ethic, so upon graduation they offered me work until I found something permanent, which was wonderful.
What sort of jobs have you had since graduation?
I’ve worked as part of a Population Health team, working on a regional health needs assessment, conducting focus groups with local communities and mapping health services.
From there I moved into an organisation where I was the sole Health Promotion Officer, giving me great opportunities to develop professionally. I led a push for health literacy, supported health communications and resource development and advised a variety of programs, covering refugee health, mental health and e-Health.
As I gained experience, I moved jobs again and became a Community Engagement and Social Marketing Officer in a local council. Here I led work re-shaping the way the council communicated with community members about health, so that they could better understand health issues affecting them, and where to seek help. I created policies and procedures, facilitated training, oversaw communications projects and initiated quality evaluation and improvement activities.
Most recently, I’ve moved into management in a Primary Care Partnership called Enliven Victoria. I oversee health projects with refugees and asylum seekers, attempting to understand their needs and plug them into local support and service networks. I maintain a health literacy service that helps local services to communicate with clients and community members.
What have you enjoyed about your public health career to date?
I love that there are so many different areas of public health you can work in, which provides so much interest and variety – local government, community health, primary care, state and federal government, plus more.
What advice would you give to students in their final year of a public health degree?
- Volunteer or get a part-time job. Being able to walk into job interviews with some real-world experience, even just a little, makes a huge difference. It tells them you’re committed and driven, provides proof you can work well with other people, and gives you something ‘real’ to talk about with interviewers, which boosts your confidence.
- Don’t expect to walk into a full-time, permanent role straight away. This may happen to a few people, but it’s not common. Many health promotion jobs are tied to a particular project or funding. The upside of this is that there are always new and different roles and jobs popping up, which provides opportunities to diversify and learn new skills.
- It’s about who knows you. The woman who helped me get my first volunteer position said this to me, and I now think it’s true. It’s not who you know that matters as much as the impression you’ve already made on those controlling jobs. Public health is a close professional community, so always have your best foot forward and network like there’s no tomorrow!
- Be adaptable. One day you could be in a workshop with Department of Health staff, the next day you could be running a focus group with community members who seem like they hate the government with every bone in their body! Learn to consider and appreciate people’s backgrounds and skillsets.
What is the main value of your Monash undergraduate degree?
It taught me to think critically, which can be applied to thousands of jobs in a number of areas, so it makes me employable. It also ignited a passion that I think I already had, but wasn’t aware of – working towards equity and social justice in healthcare.