What inspired you to study public health?
What really drew me to public health was the desire to prevent disease whenever possible, rather than to treat it after the fact. I also really love how public health involves the entire ecological model: Its effects can be population-wide, yet it really begins at the community level and with each individual’s decisions.
What has been the single most rewarding experience of your career/studies so far?
Last September I had the opportunity to attend a panel discussion entitled “Women as Key Players in the World of Athletics, Sports Diplomacy, and Global Peacebuilding” at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Meeting Michelle Kwan and hearing her speak was an amazing experience that opened my eyes to a more global perspective than I previously held. After I asked a question at the end, I was approached by one of the panelists from Pakistan. Together she and I have begun planning ways in which female athletes in America can help Pakistani girls gain the confidence to engage in physical activity and sport. I am thrilled to be connected with someone with such a different background and to have the opportunity to affect the health of women and girls who are thousands of miles away.
What is the one piece of advice you wish someone had given you when you were starting out in public health?
I wish someone had told me how comprehensive the field of public health really is—there are so many disciplines, yet they all overlap and complement each other. For example, as a Physical Activity in Public Health student, I never realized how valuable an understanding of policy would be. Getting exposure to all areas of public health and seeing how they interact has been fascinating.
What do you think is the biggest challenge that the public health field should be focusing on?
I think inactivity is an ever-growing issue that needs to be addressed in our country and around the world. Heart disease and diabetes are two of our nation’s leading causes of death, yet they are largely preventable. An active lifestyle promotes immune function, weight maintenance, emotional well-being, and so much more. My plan in public health is to get people moving again, especially outside in nature. The benefits don’t stop at the individual level—each person who chooses to walk or bike is not only improving his or her health, but also helping create a cleaner environment.