Behind the Scenes: The Career Path of a Faculty Program Director

In 2014, Excelsior Life will begin exploring the careers of staff and faculty to learn how their choices and experiences led them to working in higher education at Excelsior College.

Dorcey Applyrs, faculty program director at Excelsior College

In 2013, Dorcey Applyrs was hired as faculty program director (FPD) for the School of Health Sciences to develop and implement programs in public health, including the new concentration in the Master of Science in Health Sciences at Excelsior College. Applyrs holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a graduate degree in Public Health from the University of Albany, where she is also currently pursuing her PhD. Outside of academic, Applrys represents the First Ward as a City of Albany (NY) Common Council Member.

Excelsior Life: Where did your career begin?  
Applyrs: My career started at Delaware State University. I was a freshmen psychology major, and newly introduced to the MARC (Minority Access to Research Careers) scholars program.

Excelsior Life: What sparked your interest in public health?
Applyrs: I was immediately fascinated with applying research to improving the lives of others.  As a MARC fellow, I had to complete summer internships at an academic/research institution. I completed internships at Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University, and the University of Michigan.  During these summer internships, I conducted research on various public health issues such as obesity, asthma, HIV/AIDS and emotional distress among youth. These internships sparked my interest in public health and led to my career today.

Excelsior Life: Why is health care important to you? Applyrs: Health is a gift that is often times taken for granted. I understand that an unhealthy community cannot reach its fullest potential.  As a result, quality, accessible, and affordable healthcare is critical.  Public Health at its core is about preventing poor health outcomes and promoting access to health care and services aimed at improving health-related quality of life.

Excelsior Life: What areas of study helped you get to your career today?
Applyrs: After completing my Master’s of Public Health at the University at Albany, I began working in the field of HIV/AIDS.  My public health training prepared me to address complex issues such as HIV/AIDS by approaching these issues from a broad perspective with the understanding that an individual’s health-related behaviors are influenced by various factors (culture, peers, social norms, environment, policies and socioeconomic status among others). I then advocated for communities disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS. Instead of focusing on the behaviors that led to an HIV diagnoses, I focused my energy on addressing the root causes for the behavior such as poverty, homophobia, internalized racism, discrimination and gender inequalities.

Excelsior Life: What types of jobs did you have during your career?
Applyrs: While in the field, I worked as the director of programs for an Albany, New York based non-profit organization. As a Capacity Building Assistance (CBA) Specialist with a national advocacy and policy organization based out of New York City, I worked to build the capacity of health departments and community-based organizations implementing HIV/AIDS programs across the country. I also served on the New York State HIV Prevention Planning Group and completed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Association of Schools of Public Health, Institute for HIV Prevention Leadership program.

Excelsior Life: What made you decide to earn a doctoral degree?
Applyrs: As a community advocate, I quickly realized that in order to fully impact community-level change, I needed to gain a better understanding of public policy.

I returned to SUNY Albany in 2010 to begin my doctoral studies in Public Health with a focus on policy.  Shortly after starting the program, I completed a six month intense fellowship with the Center for Women and Government and Civil Society, a fellowship devoted to deepening and broadening political access and economic opportunities for women.

Excelsior Life: How did you become an elected official for the City of Albany?
Applyrs: As a 2012 Women in Public Policy Fellow, I was exposed to a variety of women leaders in elected positions. I volunteered on my first political campaign not realizing one year later I would be approached about running for office.  I announced my candidacy for Albany Common Council’s First Ward seat in the Spring of 2013, ran on a public health platform, won a three-way primary election and was sworn into office on January 1, 2014.

Excelsior Life: What advice would you have for students pursuing health sciences if they are just starting out?
Applyrs:
Make a commitment to a cause greater than yourself and then take advantage of educational opportunities to develop your knowledge, critical thinking ability and leadership skills.

Public Health and other health-related fields are centered on helping others. At times, individuals in these fields become overwhelmed and burnt out. It is during these times, I encourage students to step-back and reflect on those situations or that person that prompted them to pursue their career path in the first place.  This simple act of reflection can serve as inspiration and motivation to continue the journey and if all else fails…try something new!

Diligently seek out professional development opportunities that may or may not compliment your academic courses.

Connect with mentors and sponsors that can help get you where you need to go.

Be flexible and open to the unlimited possibilities ahead!

NOTE: Join Dorcey Applyrs for a Live Chat with the Troy Record this Thursday, February 13 from 5:30pm – 6:30 pm EST when she discusses “ Health Care Issues in Culturally Diverse Populations.