Learning Paths Podcast
After earning an undergraduate degree in public health sciences, Nathan Magtoto decided it was time to take a step back and figure out what he really wanted to do. Four years later, he’s pursued a variety of educational opportunities, and helped others grow while working as a teacher and an athletic coach. In this episode, Nathan shares his intentional approach to his career, and how his experiences have influenced his next step.
Ben Rubenstein: Well thank you, Nathan, for joining me here today. I wanted to talk with you because I know that you’ve had an interesting path in terms of your education and your career, and you’ve taken on a lot of different challenges along the way. So maybe to start you can share a little bit about your background, maybe starting with what you studied in undergrad and what you were planning to do at that point.
Nathan Magtoto: All right. Well first, thank you for having me on this podcast. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of these podcasts, so it’s actually exciting that I get to now participate in one. But to address your question, my educational background – I think like many, I entered college to pursue education in the direction of science, medicine, and health. So during my undergraduate years at the University of California, Irvine, I ended up getting accepted as a pharmaceutical sciences major. However, I started taking more public health-related classes, so I actually switched gears and switched my major into that. And then after the four years, I graduated with my bachelor’s officially in public health sciences. Although I think after graduating, I really wanted to slow down and take more time to really figure out what I wanted to do with the degree because public health in general is very broad and the program at UCI followed suit, because we were equipped to go through a lot of courses that were prerequisites for several professional avenues.
So one could perhaps pursue medical school, I’ve seen some of my peers go into pharmacy school, so there’s a lot of applicability in the public health program at UC Irvine. So me slowing down and trying to really key in on what I wanted to, what I wanted my next step to be. This is when I took the original four HMX courses. And then during this gap period, I was also of course looking for a job. And fortunately I was able to find employment at the local university here in my hometown in [Las] Vegas. And since then I’ve been instructing various undergraduate classes, mainly general biology lab, but also occasionally I would assist in genetics. And the HMX genetics course definitely helps with that one. And then since I personally have an interest in how the human body moves, I’m really good at also assisting in the kinesiology courses that we have here. So I’ve been doing this for four years now. And really just since then, I’ve developed a strong appreciation for teaching in general.
Ben: So I’m curious – it must be interesting as you were thinking about your own direction that you wanted to take as a student and then taking on a teaching role where you’re kind of helping students figure out their own paths, right? So how did that change your views at all about which aspects of these medical health-related topics you were most interested in, or even just sort of what your approach to them was, and the ways that you felt were kind of most effective for you to learn?
Nathan Magtoto: That’s an excellent question, because it was definitely an interesting dynamic change because the perspective literally flipped. And I ended up teaching and I feel like at some moments, mentoring a couple students or not a couple, but a lot of students who are pursuing medicine. And in some ways I very much knew what that was like, because I did end up taking the MCAT, and then I did submit medical school applications, but then before I really got deep into that, I took a step back again because a lot of my family is in the medical field. And for me, I wanted to make the decision for myself that I wanted to go to medical school. And I guess I, something flipped and I wanted to pursue more towards public health because for me it was different. And I wanted to somehow break the norm of that.
Teaching definitely, like I mentioned earlier, it switched my perspective and I think the best part about learning is trying to teach someone something because it helps solidify and strengthen your own understanding of those topics. So being, or having the opportunity to do that for students now from genetics, from biochemistry, things of that nature, it was nice for me because it helped sharpen my scientific knowledge and understanding, and along the way, and I think now we’re caught up to more recent times. There has been an increase again in focusing on public health. And I think really what threw me in for a loop, because instead of in-person teaching now we’re majority online or remote instruction. Again, I feel like this repeated theme of slowing down and reflecting had to happen. And really what I’m trying to get at is now the direction I personally want to pursue, is going the next step in my career in public health. And now I’m interested in getting my master’s in public health, an MPH.
Ben: Oh, wow. Okay. Yeah, I think I noticed that since you’ve taken the HMX courses, you’ve also gone on to take a number of other courses and earn certificates in public health-related topics. I wonder when you’re taking on some of these new opportunities, how you fit that into what I imagine is a very busy schedule of teaching and mentoring students. And so how do you fit that in both time-wise and just where your focus is when you’re focusing on different topics in courses that you’re taking versus what you may be teaching day to day?
Nathan Magtoto: My schedule is very busy and how I find that I’m able to manage all that is, you know, effective time management, but time management that works specifically, I think, for me. So I have to write everything down. I have a giant whiteboard, and as long as I keep checklists handy, I’m able to succeed at what I set my intentions to be. So yes, I do host online lectures for my students. And then occasionally, if someone would need additional help, then I would set aside time for that as well. But I think what makes it all digestible for me at the end of the day is I try to view that everything is connected because yes, I think I teach majority the fundamental science in biology and whatnot, and I do want to pursue public health, but where I find that there’s synergy is that you’d have to have a strong foundation in core biology, as you ascend towards understanding things in public health, like epidemiology, because yes, statistics are a very heavy portion of it. However, you also want to understand how – PR for example, how a disease would manifest on say a cellular level and how that would connect on a physiological level. And you want to be able to think on those different levels. So for me, I think it’s all very complimentary and my different activities, as far as teaching and me trying to learn as a student have helped one another out.
Ben: That’s great. And do you think that even as you continue to pursue these new educational opportunities, you know, getting an MPH, do you think teaching will always be a part of your career? Is that your goal? Or maybe you’re not sure yet.
Nathan Magtoto: Originally, I never thought that I’d find myself in the position of being an educator. However, again, after being in it for four years, I think I know that I want it to be a part of what I do in the future, because I do find a sense of enjoyment in sharing what I know. And then also seeing the lightbulb moment in a student perhaps where they didn’t get it at first, but because of my advice, I switched their perspective a little bit. The ‘aha’ moment I think is very priceless. And then also on a more personal level teaching for me just helps keep me sharp and I’ve really grown to appreciate it.
Ben: Yeah. And I think I’ve seen too that you’re also a coach, right.? In an athletic sense. Can you tell me just a little bit about that and that side of your life and maybe how your teaching approach and your coaching approach might be similar?
Nathan Magtoto: Yeah. So I picked up coaching because of what I discovered in college towards the latter half was personally, I get a really nice clarity after some type of physical exercise. And for me, that is the moment where if I attempt to read something, learn a new concept, things just click. So physical activity eventually fused with my anatomy and physiology education. And then there’s a lot of courses here at UNLV that offer and focus on kinesiology. So the human body and how it moves in combination with science is what led me towards taking on a side capacity of being a coach. And I think my teaching style and coaching go hand in hand because I, as much as I can, I try to be very positive and motivational when it comes to either learning a new physical skill or learning a difficult conceptual topic, because there are times when you hit a wall and it just doesn’t make sense on either how to do it or how to visualize what this concept is. But if I stay positive with it, hopefully that energy is shared with my student or the person that I’m coaching at the time.
Ben: One thing you’ve mentioned a few times here is your desire to kind of take a step back, really think about what your next step should be. And even, it seems like you were doing that right as you were embarking on your career, which I think that not everyone does. And I’m wondering, if you were to have some advice for someone who maybe is at that point, they’re in undergrad, they’ve maybe just graduated, kind of thinking about, ‘I’m interested in health, I’m interested in medicine. I’m not really sure what path I want to take.’ What would you say to a person like that?
Nathan Magtoto: Hmm, that’s a good question. I would say, in the same theme and pattern that I’ve kind of been alluding to, I think it’s alright to explore and slow down, look around and observe your surroundings with the intention of looking for connections and how things interact regardless of how different they may initially seem to be. Because I think once you do, not only will you reinforce and strengthen what you already understand, but I think you’d also arm yourself with new insight and with that new insight you can build new progress from those new connections that you drew on your own. And I feel like that’s a, I want to think that’s a pretty good piece of advice because it’s to whatever you are interested in because you’re making it your own.
Ben: Well, I think that’s been a lot of great perspective and insight that you’ve shared, and I want to thank you for doing that. And also wish you good luck as you continue to take on these new challenges, and I’m sure the next time we have you on, you will have another, a different step in your career. Maybe you’ve made a different connection and found a new role, a new passion. So I look forward to that and I think others are definitely going to take this to heart and really hopefully keep an open mind to what their career path might look like. So thank you very much.
Nathan Magtoto: Awesome. Thank you for having me.