About Joy Huber: Joy Huber works as a Health Promotions Manager for OptumRx. In addition to this, she is the Founder and Author of “Cancer with Joy,” a book and live program that details her personal experience with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma while providing essential resources, support, and encouragement for cancer patients and professionals in the field. An award-winning presenter and individual coach, Ms. Huber has traveled the globe helping the newly diagnosed and their support teams learn how to face cancer with happiness, humor, and positivity.
Ms. Huber holds a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education and Language Arts from Peru State College in Nebraska. In 2018, she completed her master’s through the online Master of Science in Health Communication (MSHC) program at Boston University.
[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background?
[Joy Huber] Before earning my master’s degree in Health Communications through Boston University, I earned my undergraduate degree in Secondary Education and Language Arts from Peru State College in Peru, Nebraska. I always wanted to educate others, sharing my knowledge and experience for their benefit. My professional background encompasses 20+ years, so it includes positions in non-profit as well as corporate positions, and I’ve worked with government clients too. I have stayed focused on the trio of communications, marketing/sales work, and training/public speaking throughout my career. Most recently, I have worked in Health Promotions on the proactive side of disease, with wellness programs including things like biometric screenings, wellbeing assessments, and tobacco cessation coaching.
In my 30’s, I received a devastating and shocking diagnosis of stage four cancer – I had Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and suffered through three years of chemotherapy treatments total while losing all my shoulder-length hair. This diagnosis led me to author the book “Cancer with JOY,” published by Morgan James Publishing of NYC. It is now available as a paperback, ebook, and audiobook on Amazon. I discovered, “No one is happy they have cancer, but you can have cancer and still be happy!” Since my name is Joy, this book has a very unique double meaning, for I am showing others how to face “Cancer with JOY” literally with me as their personal guide who’s “been there,” but I also show how to face “Cancer with JOY” figuratively as well, employing the power of positive thinking like we hear in the old adages “Laughter is the best medicine.” And “Mind over matter.”
My live program has been extremely popular with hospitals and cancer treatment centers for patients and their caregivers, and even oncology staff as well as cancer survivor events. I also re-purposed information from my book into an on-demand video course available through SkillShare and Udemy “Living Well With Cancer.” In this course, I personally “guide” participants around helpful resources I wish I had known about at diagnosis, saving them both time and valuable energy. It’s been extremely rewarding utilizing my graduate school education to help so many others at one of the most difficult times of their lives.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Why did you decide to pursue a master’s degree in communication, and why did you ultimately choose the online Master of Science in Health Communication (MSHC) program at Boston University?
[Joy Huber] As I researched various master’s programs, the program specifically in Health Communication at Boston University stood out to me. Since I had my career too working full-time, I really liked how it could be completed online with courses mostly offered in the evenings. I know many professionals with the Master’s of Public Health, but I was looking for something different in a program.
After my very personal experience with stage four cancer, I was intrigued by a program with the focus on health communication and making complex health information more easily understandable. This is an issue virtually everyone struggles with and needs assistance in, so I felt careers in this field would be very fulfilling. I really enjoyed how we learned various ways to communicate complex health information using not only text or bulleted step-by-step instructions, but also utilizing options including images with captions, video, and infographics.
[MastersinCommunications.com] How is BU’s MSHC program structured, and what concepts did the program emphasize? What skills and strategies did you learn in your classes, and how did you apply them to course assignments?
[Joy Huber] The MSHC at BU is structured very well I felt. This program emphasized important concepts like health literacy and communicating complex health information so it is more easily understood. We also learned how to create comprehensive health communications programs including researching, planning, implementing, and evaluating. I completed a few different courses through this program in marketing and public relations, as well as media relations.
But this program also provided medical/scientific courses and background in topics including The Biology of Disease & Epidemiology. There was also a great course on The American Health Care System really looking at access and cost issues. Finally, through a visual communications course, we looked at utilizing various tools to create up-to-date visuals including infographics, video, and web sites. The assignments definitely gave us the hands-on opportunity to practice using new skills we read about or saw in a demo with our instructor during live class.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please elaborate on your experience with BU’s online platform? Were courses asynchronous (prerecorded), synchronous (live), or a combination of both? Did the school’s online platform enable you to interact with faculty members and classmates? How?
[Joy Huber] Courses were offered live which gave us a great opportunity to participate and ask questions or dialogue and debate with the instructor, our facilitators, and even other students. I would normally watch the course on my laptop, as often we could see a Powerpoint presentation or other demo along with seeing our instructor and others if their cameras were also on. We had the chance to talk or type in a chat. There’s a button where you can raise your hand so you’re not missed. We could also host and share our screen when we needed to deliver presentations.
The great thing was classes were also recorded and could be played back so there was a live opportunity, but if you couldn’t attend the class live it wasn’t like you missed it altogether. You could play the class back on-demand, pausing or stopping as needed. The pause feature really helped if I needed to write something down but didn’t want to miss the next step of a demo of a software I was trying to learn.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please describe your experience completing your final portfolio? What projects did you decide to include and why? What advice do you have for students in terms of successfully completing their portfolio?
[Joy Huber] Each course in the MSHC program had a final project we would create to add to our ePortfolio. So 10 courses equaled 10 projects, or a diverse ePortfolio. While the project or format was normally specified, as in you will create a Powerpoint, we had freedom to choose our subject based on what we were interested in. As a cancer survivor, I was interested in evaluating cancer sites like the social media presence of cancer.net – their Facebook page, Twitter, YouTube, etc. I even sent them my coursework for free hoping it would benefit their future marketing efforts. It was work that a consultant would have charged for.
The ePortfolio has been very useful, as I have shared it to demonstrate a variety of projects I have experience with, including writing or creating articles, the various sections of event plans, web sites, and videos. I think it is very useful to use as graduates apply for different positions or can share with prospective clients, etc. I’m glad we created a body of work with a capstone project in each course vs. researching and writing a thesis.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What key takeaways, experiences, or connections from the MSHC program have you found to be the most helpful for you in your career path?
[Joy Huber] The MSHC offers several really wonderful things: first, the education is top-notch with the texts and supplemental things we read. Our live classes complemented the learning and gave us many additional opportunities to interact with our instructor, facilitators, and other classmates employed in a diverse range of positions in the field. Often in live class we had special guests, including the authors of the texts we were reading in the course, which was impressive that our instructors had relationships with the text authors! We also wrote, responded to, and commented on regular discussion posts in addition to completing assignments, tests, and other projects that were individual and group.
One unexpected thing I’ve found to be great that I didn’t anticipate was the personal relationships you develop with your instructors, facilitators, and other students. With an online program I wasn’t expecting this, but we connected on LinkedIn, and have e-mailed, talked on the phone, and couldn’t wait to meet and hug each other at graduation which I personally attended in Boston! Instructors and facilitators wrote me letters of recommendation when I applied for scholarships in the program. I feel the projects also provided diverse experiences incorporating technology which is so critical – it wasn’t just a program where you read, write, and discuss!
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice would you give students just starting Boston University’s online Master of Science in Health Communication program? More broadly, what advice would you give students who are either considering or starting a master’s in communication program, whether it be at BU or another university?
[Joy Huber] Graduate school takes a lot of time, but it’s well worth the short-term investment. While you’re completing this program, you will get up earlier or stay up late finding time to get through all the reading, but the only person you shortchange if you don’t do all the work is yourself. I broke up the reading by reading so much, then taking a break or doing something different, and coming back to read more. You can tell when you’re not absorbing the material anymore re-reading it to try to make sense of it.
Realize if you have to say goodbye to things or can only do them less frequently, it’s a sacrifice that will pay off in the future. Grad school is very short term when you look at how long your career lasts. This program took me a few years to complete because I took breaks between classes for both financial and emotional health reasons – I found it too stressful to complete accelerated grad-level class after class after class while also working full-time, so I would take a session off and then return. I was also helping others on our work team taking maternity leave by doing a piece of their jobs in addition to my own full-time job, and buying a house. It’s definitely ok to take breaks. And every position – no matter the industry – demands effective communication abilities, so this is a great program to select!
Thank you, Ms. Huber, for your excellent insights on Boston University’s Master of Science in Health Communication program!