Term of Award

Fall 2022

Degree Name

Doctor of Public Health in Public Health Leadership (Dr.P.H.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Health Policy and Community Health

Committee Chair

Bettye Apenteng

Committee Member 1

Samuel Opoku

Committee Member 2

William Mase



Public health must confront the ongoing challenge of workforce transitions and the impending exodus of existing employees. The millennial generation rises as an option to fill this workforce gap. Using the Socialization Resource Theory as a framework and qualitative data from in-depth interviews with 27 millennial professionals from federal, state, local, and non-governmental public health agencies, this study describes (a) the organizational assimilation (OA) process for millennial public health professionals, (b) explores the impact of OA on professional identity, and (c) describes how the OA process may impact the retention of public health professionals.

The results from this study revealed relatively homogenous collective socialization or organizational acculturation experiences among millennial public health professionals, characterized by a complex job-seeking process, and an overwhelming and relatively unsupportive onboarding experience. Participants indicated the OA process affirmed and further refined pre-existing professional identity. Organizational innovation and supportive organizational structures that promote career growth, including mentorship and networking, emerged as important facilitators of retention among millennials.

Recommendations for public health practice include revising the job-seeking process, developing onboarding structures that include mentorship and networking opportunities, institutionalizing opportunities for career growth and advancement, and fostering collaborations with universities and other organizations to recruit individuals who have a professional identity that aligns with public health.

Research Data and Supplementary Material