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Meet the Program Director: Health Communication

Elissa Foster
Prof. Elissa Foster

"I enjoy teaching adults and I've been doing it for almost 20 years. My guiding principle is to identify students' motivations for learning and serve as a facilitator of their education in my class. I may be the content expert, but true learning doesn't happen without students having a reason to learn; I help them to keep that reason at the core of their experience."

On the MA in Health Communication Program
Unlike most graduate programs of this nature around the country, our Health Communication program is highly applied and oriented toward working professionals or those who seek to work in health care. The course content is continually linked back to current challenges facing the health care environment. Underpinning the health communication course work is the expectation that graduates will enter the workforce with advanced skills related to acquiring and synthesizing information, identifying communication problems and potential solutions, and critically assessing and addressing aspects of the health care system that prevent the delivery of high-quality care.

On the Type of Student Health Communication Seeks
The program seeks students with a passion for health care practice, who are well-prepared academically, demonstrate the capacity for critical thinking, and can communicate ideas clearly and convincingly. These criteria encompass a wide range of individual applicants — from students right out of college to professionals currently working in health care.

Why our Program is a Unique Place to Study Health Communication
Our program has a strong focus on professional practice and strong links to countless health-related organizations in Chicago. Students will complete a range of courses, many are more practice-based and include applied projects, others are designed to hone students' academic and critical thinking skills. We also strongly encourage internship experiences, particularly for those students who are recent graduates and/or who are at liberty to engage in internships to help build their professional portfolio.

What Drew You to the Discipline?
I came to the United States from Australia to complete my MA degree in Organizational and Interpersonal Communication, and quickly encountered the U.S. health care system. 18 years later, it still astounds me that the U.S. spends more on health care than any other country and has the poorest outcomes among developed nations. That's a systemic issue and communication is key to changing that appalling state of affairs.
My focus as a scholar is on medical education and professional development, particularly involving inter-professional relationships: patients' experiences of health care, particularly in the area of pregnancy, fertility, motherhood, end-of-life communication, and the use of qualitative methods to investigate health care practice and outcomes.

Why Do You Teach at DePaul?
I left academia several years ago to work for a large health care network in Pennsylvania. It was an incredible experience to work with individuals who are at the forefront of tackling the problems with health care here in the United States. When I came across the opportunity to work for DePaul, to direct a new graduate program in Health Communication, I knew it was a unique opportunity to join an institution that values the integration of academic rigor and professional education. The fact that DePaul maintains such active and productive relationships with the community in Chicago was a key factor in my decision to come here.

What Makes Chicago a Special City to You?
The lake. I didn't know there were beaches! The people, smiling and saying "Welcome to Chicago!" And the food — who knew it would be so good?