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Public health student pursues graduate education to make a difference


Master of Public Health student Clinton Alexander focuses on helping communities. He spoke at the College of Health Professions Scholarship Recognition Program in September. He is a member of the Fargo Native American Commission. Clinton's speech highlighted the importance for him of earning a Master of Public Health degree, in order to engage Native American communities in disease prevention and health promotion priorities. Here is his story, in his own words.

Last month, the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis described the overdose death toll in the United States as “September 11th every three weeks.” The CDC highlighted prescription drug overdose as one of the United States’ top five public health threats, issuing guidelines for opioid prescription for chronic pain this year in hopes it would reduce the risk of opioid addiction and overdose, an acknowledgement of the complexity of the problem.

For many of us in the College of Health Professions, we will be certainly playing important roles in addressing this crisis – as pharmacists, nurses, and other public health professionals.  

For the past six years, I have witnessed the devastating toll that opioid overdoses have had on rural, urban, and tribal communities in Minnesota and North Dakota, just like other communities across the United States.

During this time, I have worked in various roles addressing the complex public health issues related to this crisis but oftentimes struggled, due to lack of formal public health education and credentials.

Entering the Master of Public Health program had been a goal of mine because I knew that it would equip me with the knowledge and skills that would make me an effective leader and public health professional.

I will be more effective in promoting health and well-being, addressing the public health crisis facing our nation today. I am learning innovative approaches and methodologies as a student, that are enhanced by my real-life experiences working with public health and public safety professionals.

I am grateful because of the generosity and commitment of donors like many of you here, I have this life-changing opportunity.

I was raised by my grandparents—my grandmother, whose formal education was the government boarding school she was forced to attend as a child, and my grandfather, who quit school in the 6th grade to work as a lumberjack to help support his family, later becoming the first American Indian ordained by the Lutheran Church of America. 

As a first-generation college graduate and now, first generation Master-level student in my family, I have a deep appreciation for the opportunity I have been given because of the generosity of the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

Without the support of the scholarship I received, I—like many others here today—would not have been able to pursue this academic endeavor and develop the skills needed to contribute to addressing issues like opioid overdose.

As a public health professional with my Master of Public Health from NDSU, I am confident that I will be able to help strengthen the resiliency of my community and contribute to creating healthier communities in the years to come.  

Miigwech.  Thank you.

Student Focused. Land Grant. Research University.

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North Dakota State University
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