Alumni News and Features

Alumni Profile: Phillip Woods, MPH '02

Once a month, the Office for Alumni Affairs highlights the work and accomplishments of an HSPH alumna/us in our Alumni Profiles series. We ask alumni to speak to how their HSPH experience influenced their career path and their work in public health, as well as to share any advice they have for current students.

Phillip Woods, MPH '02
Chief Dental Officer
Federal Detention Center SeaTac

What motivated you to pursue a public health education at the Harvard School of Public Health?

I had already enjoyed many years in dental education, and working as an oral health provider for vulnerable populations. I wanted an opportunity to play a broader, more effective role in oral health and increasing oral health access at the state or national level.

How has HSPH impacted your career path?

I came to Harvard in mid-career; my HSPH training has helped to refine and clarify my career path, and to envision possibilities I might not have considered prior to Harvard. The greatest gift I received as a result of my HSPH training is broad-based training in public health and increased awareness of the forces which drive public health. What Harvard has provided me most is resources - resources of professors, colleagues and opportunities for co-learning and sharing. I completed the CFHU Fellowship in Minority Health Careers simultaneously with my MPH and received invaluable training on leadership, mentoring and policies impacting issues of health disparities.

What have you been doing since leaving HSPH?

I was an Army reservist while at Harvard. I am now an active duty officer in the United States Public Health Service, serving as national periodontal consultant for the 218, 815 inmates housed in 117 facilities comprising the federal Bureau of Prisons. Locally I serve as Chief Dentist at the Federal Detention center in SeaTac, WA, where we support an 800 inmate facility of newly arrested and repeat offenders.

Was there a specific faculty member who inspired you or if there is someone who works in an area of public health you admire? What do you admire about this person?

Dean Joan Reede was my fellowship director during my HSPH years. She continues to inspire me today. I most admire her tenacity, selflessness and the many ways she embodies and models leadership for so many. As a fellow, I knew I couldn’t allow myself to be any less than she imagined me to be. She worked longer hours, and much harder than we did, so there were absolutely NO excuses!

What advice do you have for current HSPH students?

Imagine what you'd like to do or be 10 years from now. Visualize it, write it down and then seek out HSPH faculty and opportunities which support your dream. If there seem to be none, ask Roberta Gianfortoni and she will certainly help direct you. During your years as an HSPH student you’ll feel like a kid in a candy store as there are so many resources. Know the real world may look very different. Your student years are prime years to dig deep, explore and imagine and create; take advantage of as much as possible. And trust me; the door doesn't exactly slam behind you as you exit HSPH - now that's a beautiful thing.