Wisconsin Population Health Services Fellowship Program: Developing Public Health Leaders

Updated Sep 5, 2023

The Wisconsin Population Health Services Fellowship Program at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health is helping to build a public health workforce prepared to meet the health needs of the state.

The Wisconsin Population Health Services Fellowship Program is a two-year service and training program where early career individuals working in public health and allied sciences are placed in practice-based settings in community, non-profit, governmental, and health service organizations in Wisconsin. Fellows support public health programming for numerous local health initiatives while building their skills in population and public health.

The goal of the Fellowship Program is to provide advanced training to the next generation of public health leaders while, at the same time, providing direct service to community partners to address Wisconsin’s most pressing public health challenges.

“We are building a stronger workforce through training and retaining public health leaders with a deepened health equity and systems lens demonstrated by Fellowship graduates who continue to work and take on leadership roles in public health in Wisconsin,” said Wajiha Akhtar, PhD, MPH, Assistant Director of the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and Interim Director of the Population Health Service Fellowship Program.

The Wisconsin Partnership Program has supported the Population Health Service Fellowship Program since its inception in 2004. The program is a cornerstone of WPP’s educational investments and continues to successfully achieve its goals of both public health workforce development and service contributions to rural and urban communities.

Since 2004, more than 97 masters and doctoral-prepared fellows from diverse backgrounds have served at more than 50 unique placement settings throughout Wisconsin. The number of graduating fellows currently contributing to, or leading, Wisconsin’s public health workforce continues to grow, with 80 percent of fellows currently staying in Wisconsin.

Meet some of the fellows from the 2020-22 and 2021-23 cohorts:

Emily Dejka, 2020-22 cohort

Emily Dejka served the 2020-2022 cohort of the Wisconsin Health Services Fellowship Program through her placement with the Eau Claire City-County Health Department in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Dejka sought a fellowship position because she could learn and practice public health in a setting with built-in mentorship. “The Wisconsin Population Health Fellowship was unique in its foundation of health equity and reflective practice,” Dejka explained, “I decided those factors would benefit the next phase of my public health journey the most.”

Emily Dejka

Another benefit she saw in the fellowship was the flexibility it provides. “Since the job description is not fixed, I have been able to add capacity across a variety of projects based on the needs of the department and my skills,” Dejka said. Because her placement began in July 2020, Dejka played a large role in the health department’s COVID-19 response. During this time, she worked on a variety of projects that included making COVID-19 testing readily available, communicating changes in guidance to community partners, reviewing data, and starting the department’s mobile vaccination team. Dejka’s preceptor and Assistant Director of Eau Claire City-County Health Department, Marisa Stanley, MPH added, “Emily was able to quickly step in and provide leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic to make sure all communities within Eau Claire County had access to testing and vaccination.”

Through her involvement in the long, intense public health response during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dejka has learned how to be an effective member of a team, the importance of messaging, and how to engage with community partners. “The fellowship program set me up with a foundation of health equity in public health that I will build upon for the rest of my career,” Dejka adds. Since completing her fellowship in July 2022, Dejka has been able to continue working with the Eau Claire City-County Health Department through a one-year appointment as a Public Health Specialist on a workforce development grant.

Amanda Dailey, 2021-23 cohort

Amanda Dailey is placed at the Milwaukee Health Department (MHD) and the Center for Urban Population Health (CUPH) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Dailey works with the Health Strategy Team within the Policy, Innovation, and Engagement Department at MHD in data collection and validation and project management. In her role with CUPH, Dailey has been involved in developing the Community Science Project which aims to support Milwaukee youths’ understanding of health and research.

Amanda Dailey

“Whether it be encouraging inner city youth to participate in research or going out and listening to the community health concerns in the city of Milwaukee,” Dailey explained, “I have been able to center all of my work on health equity.”

Dailey looks to continue building on the fellowship program foundations of health equity and health research to solve inequalities by working with communities in the future. “My next steps are to find where I fit best into this exciting world of public health and health education,” Dailey shared.

Coriann Dorgay, 2021-23 cohort

“The focus on health equity and community building really drew me to this program,” said Coriann Dorgay, who is placed at the Wood County Health Department in Wisconsin Rapids. Dorgay found that the Wisconsin Public Health Fellowship Program checked all their boxes when it came to an early career training experience. They serve in many roles at the Wood County Health Department including as a member of the Healthy People Wood County team and a co-lead on the department’s internal health equity team.

Coriann Dorgay

During the peak of the pandemic, Dorgay assisted staff by stepping in to support COVID-19 testing and communications. Dorgay’s preceptor, Kristie Egge, MPH, shared that, “Coriann has provided additional capacity to the Wood County Health Department, bringing strong communication and public health skills to our team, and providing support to enhance and catalyze important work focused on equitable strategies.” Dorgay has also had opportunities to provide educational presentations on the disparities the LGBTQ+ population faces to both staff at the health department and local organizations including local churches, the Hmong American Center, State Housing Authority, and UW-Eau Claire student nurses. “Our team has learned so much from Coriann, and we are so fortunate to have them placed in Wood County,” Egge said.

“Through my participation in this program I have gained so much confidence in myself and how I can contribute positively to the communities and organizations I serve in the future,” Dorgay said. Dorgay added that their preceptor, Kristie Egge, MPH, has been instrumental in helping them understand how the work of a local health department fits into the context of the county and communities they serve.

Erik Ohlrogge, 2021-23 cohort

Erik Ohlrogge serves the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council, Inc. at the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Epidemiology Center (GLITEC) in Lac Du Flambeau, Wisconsin. Through this role within the Wisconsin Population Health Services Fellowship, Ohlrogge explores topics of justice, public health governance, and health equity.

Erik Ohlrogge

In his role, Ohlrogge supports the community’s efforts to improve health by assisting with data needs through partnership development, community-based research, education, technical assistance, and improving data quality.

Ohlrogge appreciates the mentorship and networking opportunities afforded by the fellowship program as well as the opportunity to learn from the experiences and perspectives of the community he serves.

Looking to the future, Ohlrogge shared that his mentors at the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Epidemiology Center and within the fellowship program have been instrumental in helping him develop his career. Further, the fellowship program’s focus on education and mentorship has amplified his interest in teaching, and he would like to continue to explore the different areas he has been exposed to in the next steps of his career.

The Wisconsin Partnership Program is proud to support this successful partnership between the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and community entities to mold the future of public health leadership.

“The funding through the WPP has allowed us to build a curriculum that combines service and public health. We do this by identifying and tackling some of the state’s most pressing public health challenges, while also building population health skills and experience in future leaders,” said Akhtar.