My name is Ilenia Morales and I’m from Guatemala. I graduated in May 2023 with a Master’s degree in public health with a concentration in epidemiology. I’m a first-generation student with an MPH in my family. In terms of free time, I enjoy nature, painting, hiking, traveling, and learning new perspectives to life.
To pay for school I worked as an implant dental assistant while studying. Then I had the opportunity to own a commercial cleaning company which allowed me to continue to grad school. In the public health field, I gained applied experience in a SAMHSA-funded project at Georgia State University called Panthers4Life which focused on the prevention and treatment of alcohol use, drug use, sexual assault, and suicide among high-risk GSU students.
I have always enjoyed the health field. One of my motivations to study public health was the idea of being able to prevent adverse health situations for people in a larger scale since it strives to impact not only one person but communities or populations. The fact that public health focuses on the prevention more than the treatment of negative health conditions has also been a major reason to study public health.
My interest in work in public health is because this field will allow me to nurture my desire to positively impact the lives of many people by using public health strategies to prevent diseases, manage illness and disabilities, and empower individuals to create a better life for themselves.
What do you hope to accomplish in this program? In this program I hope to gain as much experience in the public health sector as possible. I would like to work for the CDC in the prevention branch. I am open to different focuses, like drug abuse prevention, or violence prevention. This is a wonderful opportunity for me to see public health in action and absorb information in order to become a resourceful public health professional. Working with preventable diseases like childhood diabetes is something I would like to stay open to exploring in the future. I believe working with our younger generations can help us reshape the health of the population in the United States.
The project I will be working on is the Drug Free Communities Program Implementation. It was established to monitor, prevent, and reduce the harms associated with drug misuse and overdose. The mission of the Drug Free Communities branch is to provide grant awards, partner connections to coalitions supporting diverse communities in order to reduce and prevent substance use among youth leading to drug-free lives now and throughout their adulthood.