Natalia Houghton (MSGH ’15) Offers Career Advice to Students

Posted in News Story

This month, MSGH alumna Natalia Houghton ’15 connected with current students (via Zoom) to share advice about launching a career in global health!  Natalia currently works as a Specialist in Health Systems and Services Analysis at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in Washington, DC.  In that role, she provides technical cooperation in the design and implementation of monitoring and evaluation projects for public health and health systems strengthening initiatives.  

In her conversation with the students, Natalia emphasized the value of pursuing internships.  While she was enrolled in the MSGH at Georgetown, Natalia was an intern at PAHO, which allowed her to expand her network and prove herself to the organization.  Professors at Georgetown believed that her bilingual abilities (Natalia is originally from Colombia) and enduring interest in Latin American health systems made her a good fit for PAHO.  The internship was facilitated by the recommendation from Georgetown adjunct faculty member and former Assistant Director of PAHO, Dr. Jose Teruel.  

Reflecting on her initial experience at PAHO, Natalia advised students: “don’t be shy; be useful.”  Natalia’s hard work in the internship led to a consultancy there, and a permanent position that she started six months ago!  Natalia enjoys engaging with diverse colleagues inside and outside PAHO, including through foreign travel.  She has supported quantitative and qualitative research projects in the areas of healthcare access and equity, maternal and child health, and infectious disease prevention and control.  In her prior consultancy role and current position, Natalia focused on solving the problems related to health services access.  In this, she is committed to robust data and evidence, constantly pushing to improve standards. 

Natalia’s favorite course in the MSGH program was Health Policy & Systems.  She reports that the courses in Monitoring & Evaluation, Epidemiology, and Qualitative Research Methods were especially helpful in providing the foundational knowledge base for her current work.  Natalia observed that, when she arrived at GU, “I did not have much experience in health systems strengthening, but [the coursework and field research] gave me the tools and confidence to move forward in my career.”

Of particular value in Natalia’s growth was her Field Research Module in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in Fall 2014.  Her project was an impact evaluation with Pact, focusing on social determinants and barriers to access health care services in households with most vulnerable children in Tanzania.  Natalia described it as a “whole new learning experience that applied the degree to real life,” and added that the project was excellent preparation for her M&E projects at PAHO.  She remains in contact with her preceptor.

Though Natalia was eager to work in Latin America, she found that conducting field research in Africa offered a diversity of experience that enhanced her efforts in the Western Hemisphere.  She found similarities in East African culture and health systems to those of Latin America, allowing her to apply lessons learned half a world away. 

We are grateful to Natalia for her willingness to participate in our Alumni Conversation Series!

To learn more about Natalia’s work at PAHO, click here to view her feature in the “Meet Our Alumni” section of this website.