Our Students in Action

Leslie Fierro

Assessing Public Health

Leslie Fierro joined the doctoral program at CGU after working for about ten years for federal and local government. She received formal training in epidemiology and biostatistics while pursuing a Masters in Public Health, which she completed eight years ago. Her work at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta (where she continues to work part-time as a contractor) was in the areas of environmental epidemiology and program evaluation. “Our program funds state health departments to design and implement statewide asthma control programs with the goal of decreasing the burden of asthma across the nation,” Leslie says. Her current work with the CDC focuses on working with state asthma programs to develop a monitoring system that will be used to track progress and identify areas for programmatic improvement and expansion.

The leap from this work to her doctoral research in Applied Research and Evaluation is not hard to understand. “For my first-year project, I am systematically reviewing the curriculum students pursuing a Master’s of Public Health (MPH) degree in epidemiology or health education from an accredited school or program of public health are required to complete. By looking at all of the courses that are required to receive one of these degrees, I’m exploring the kind of exposure these graduate students have to evaluation training. This work is important because public health is currently undergoing some changes, one of which is the introduction of a voluntary accreditation examination for all MPH graduates from accredited schools of public health. This exam includes competencies in program evaluation, however we are unsure to what extent these students are being exposed to evaluation concepts." Her work has been well received by the CGU community, resulting in receiving a 2008-09 Doug and Ethel Pearce Fellowship.

During her time at CGU, Leslie has also worked on other evaluation projects. For example, during her first year at CGU she worked on a discipline-crossing project with Dr. Christina Christie and Dr. Deborah Deutsch Smith (School of Educational Studies) on the Special Education Faculty Needs Assessment (SEFNA). This project is a follow up to a study conducted approximately 10 years ago which was designed to provide a “snapshot” of higher education programs in special education. Also last year, Leslie completed her first external evaluation project. She worked with the State and Territorial Injury Prevention Directors Association (STIPDA) to evaluate the work of six local health department projects funded to plan Safe Routes to School programs in their locale.

Leslie has many interests in evaluation including but not limited to: evaluation methods and measurement, improving evaluation capacity and knowledge, and the link between public policy and evaluation. With respect to public policy and evaluation she is particularly interested in how the methods used in conducting an evaluation and the presentation of evaluation findings to public policy players can help to facilitate change. For example, in what ways do these players utilize existing evaluation and monitoring data (e.g. Program Assessment Rating Tool) in their decision making?