Winter Commencement 2022: From Music City to RUC – and an M.S.H.S.

Anna Kate Draper

The COVID-19 pandemic profoundly affected the career trajectory of many professionals when it hit in 2019, and Anna Kate Draper’s experience was no different.

 At the time, Draper was working in Nashville, Tennessee, for a marketing firm that supported the music industry. She found herself out of a job when the firm closed, and she decided it was time for a change.

“I spent most of my life in Roanoke, which was where my parents raised my siblings and me,” Draper said. “I always had a passion for helping others, and with the focus of healthcare in Roanoke, it felt like a natural fit for me to explore something in that world.”

Initially, Draper looked at a pharmacy career path but discovered she needed lots of prerequisite education to even apply for a program.

“I was researching other options when I connected with Dr. Diana Willeman-Buckelew,” Draper said of the faculty member in the Radford University Carilion (RUC) Department of Public Health and Healthcare Administration (PHHL). “She sparked my interest in the Master of Health Sciences program and helped me discover a passion for research.”

Draper enrolled in the program and began working toward her Master of Health Sciences (M.S.H.S.) degree with a clinical research administration (CRA) concentration. At the December 2022 Winter Commencement ceremony, she will become the first student to graduate from RUC with that particular degree concentration.

“My experience in the M.S.H.S. program has truly been eye-opening,” Draper says. “Learning about all of the aspects of the healthcare industry has taught me there is always an opportunity to improve patient care and outcomes. I am looking forward to carrying that philosophy into my career.”

Draper said that as she completed the program, it was a perfect fit for her. She said the 100% online program allowed her to earn her degree from a distance, which came in handy after receiving a job offer in Richmond, Virginia.

“Being able to study online gave me flexibility suitable for my needs and schedule over the last three years,” said Draper, who took advantage of the virtual learning opportunity to accept a job at another university as a research assistant in the hepatology department. “Plus, the advantage of learning while working helped me see how my education was lining up directly with my job.”

Draper said much of what she studied began to show up in her daily routine — especially when it came to medical terminology, which she admits can be confusing.

“I was nervous about not having any medical background when I began the M.S.H.S. program at RUC, but I have learned so much through the program I use every day,” Draper said. “The faculty in the PHHL department are a big part of that success.”

Draper said one of the highlights of her program has been getting to know each of her professors, helping her develop strong connections and mentorship experiences that have helped her achieve her goals.

“With small class sizes and that deep connection with your professors, the graduate Health Sciences program at RUC is great for those students who want hands-on and personalized learning opportunities,” Draper said. “I am very grateful for my professors’ commitment to helping me become a stronger student and a competent professional.”

For those considering the M.S.H.S. program at RUC, Draper said it’s a unique and valuable opportunity they don’t want to miss.

“I’ve had the best experience earning the M.S.H.S. degree and would encourage anyone considering the program to take the plunge,” Draper said. “There are times when having homework right after work seems impossible, but in the end, I feel I have set myself up for a better professional future, and it is definitely worth the effort.”

Draper said after graduation, she will begin looking for a full-time position that will put her research skills to work.

“I’m pleased and surprised with how many doors have opened even before I graduate,” she said. “The CRA will prepare me for a wide range of job opportunities to explore, and the new discoveries are endless. It’s really exciting and I can’t wait to see what my future holds!”

Nov 18, 2022
Mark Lambert