Public Health Buckeyes: Natalie Hickman

Environmental public health student moves from marketing to public health

May 4, 2021
Natalie Hickman at Ohio State's Biological Sciences Greenhouse

Each month, the College of Public Health is shining a spotlight on one of its students. For May, meet Natalie Hickman, a BSPH student specializing in environmental public health. An insect lover and nontraditional student, Hickman left a longtime career to finish her education (and pursue her real passion). She’s on track to graduate by the end of the year.

What was your path to get to Ohio State? 

I left school because it wasn’t the right fit for me at that time in my life. I took a job with a company where I stayed for 18 years — I started out in customer service and ended up in sales and marketing. I always told myself if the day came that I woke up and dreaded going to work, that I would make some changes. I felt like the skills that I had didn’t really translate into anything other than a lateral move doing the same things that just weren’t making me happy anymore. My husband convinced me that going back to school was a dream that I could attain. I was able to resign my position and return to school full time to finally finish what I started so many years ago. I also wanted to set a good example for my kids and for the girls in my Girl Scout troops — if I’m going to tell them that they can dream big and accomplish anything, I have to believe that I can too.

Why did you decide to pursue public health? 

I chose public health because it was the best fit for me and my family. I wanted a career where I can help people and make a difference.   

Can you tell us how your entomology minor fits into your public health education? 

I chose entomology as my minor because of my interest in insect-vectored diseases and the public health risks they pose. I also find insects endlessly fascinating. It was the perfect way for me to combine a hobby (I have over 125 tarantulas and many scorpions, vinegaroons, beetles, millipedes, isopods, ornamental roaches and a centipede!) with coursework that would help me further my career goals.

What are your goals after graduating? 

After graduation, I hope to attend graduate school to earn my MPH in epidemiology. 

Are you involved in any research, internships or academic activities?

I am currently working at Ohio State’s insectary, housed in the Biological Sciences Greenhouse. I’ve enjoyed my time working in the insectary immensely. I’ve met a lot of really interesting people, and it’s helped me feel more connected to the university.

What advice would you give incoming students?

I think that the best advice that I could give incoming students is to never be afraid to make huge changes in your life if you’re not happy with where you are.  

How do you see your education shaping your future?

My education means everything for my future! I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities that I will have thanks to my education. 

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About The Ohio State University College of Public Health

The Ohio State University College of Public Health is a leader in educating students, creating new knowledge through research, and improving the livelihoods and well-being of people in Ohio and beyond.  The College's divisions include biostatistics, environmental health sciences, epidemiology, health behavior and health promotion, and health services management and policy.   It is ranked 24th among all colleges of public health in the U.S. by U.S. News and World Report, and also includes the top 7-ranked MHA degree program.  The College provides leadership and expertise for Ohio and the world through its Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Evaluation Studies (HOPES) and Center for Public Health Practice (CPHP).