What inspired you to study public health?
I was inspired to pursue a career in public health while in nursing school. I loved the science behind helping individuals but couldn’t help but notice that many of the issues I was learning about were preventable. I took an elective course in public health and knew I found the perfect career for me. I wanted to use my knowledge to prevent people from chronic diseases rather than providing tertiary care.
What has been the single most rewarding experience of your career/studies so far?
The single most rewarding experience of my career/studies thus far has been working on the CDC funded COVID-19 vaccination program for the State of Iowa. My research team has been focusing on ways to improve vaccination rates in rural Iowa while also looking at ways to address vaccine hesitancy in order to increase vaccine confidence. Throughout the pandemic, I have also been able to work with the Iowa Department of Public Health to conduct literature reviews and action plans for various minority groups. This whole experience has taught me just how quickly professionals can collaborate when society needs the expertise of public health. It has been very rewarding to see my work being used to help local communities during a time of need.
The one piece of advice I wish someone had given me when I was starting out in public health is to get involved in research. From my personal experience, I have been able to better understand theories and concepts by applying what I have learned in the classroom to my research position. If I had not joined the current research team I am on, I would have never discovered my passion for research and vaccination campaigns.
What do you think is the biggest challenge that the public health field should be focusing on?
While there are so many issues I think public health should be focusing on, I believe one of the biggest challenges that the public health field should be focusing on is addressing the health and social needs of individuals with chronic conditions and disabilities. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted many disparities and inequalities across numerous backgrounds, especially those from minority and underrepresented groups. However, with the return to work plan in progress, many accommodations for individuals with disabilities and chronic conditions are no longer a focus. While this issue is specific, looking more broadly at the need to address disparities and inequalities is imperative to create change.