Laura Bryson

Laura Bryson

MPH, Community Health Practice, University of North Carolina at Charlotte Public Health Programs

What inspired you to study public health?

Like many others, I remember thinking to myself, “I just want to help people,” but I had no idea how. Here is a real list I made about five years ago, when I had just started community college and was pondering career options:
1.Like Emma Watson. She is an ambassador for HeForShe which is a nonprofit that fights for gender equality around the world. She gets to travel too.
2. Ad Council. They make videos about social issues to change people’s minds and behaviors.
3. PUBLIC HEALTH!!!
This short list helped me realize that you can pursue your passions full-time, and that communication, empathy, and large-scale advocacy efforts for social change go a long way. As indicated by the all-caps and exclamation points in number 3, I had finally found a meaningful path.
What has been the single most rewarding experience of your career/studies so far?

During my undergraduate internship in Fall 2019, I worked for a nonprofit organization called SEEDS of Healing (SOH), an HIV awareness and advocacy organization whose main goals are to deconstruct myths that perpetuate stigma, and eliminate disparities in health outcomes by providing HIV education, screening, linkage to care, and community engagement. I worked with my supervisor and the board of directors to plan the annual fundraiser, the Red Ribbon Event, in honor of World AIDS Day. SOH also partnered with another local nonprofit to bring the AIDS Memorial Quilt to Wilmington, NC, which was displayed at the event. The intentional gathering of individuals living with or affected by HIV, as well as organizations working to end the epidemic, was an emotive illustration of the power grassroots organizations have for change. This experience was the single most rewarding in my public health journey so far.

Advice:

Public Health has so, so many more career avenues than health education and promotion or nutrition and physical activity…think about climate change, infrastructure and urban design, health policy and law, immigrant health and safety, substance use disorders, data analysis and visualization, emergency preparedness…the list goes on. I’ll say here what my undergraduate advisor said to me in regards to choosing a path in public health: “Think about what grinds your gears the most. Now, go fix it.”

What do you think is the biggest challenge that the public health field should be focusing on?

My goodness, what a heavy question. While the public health field has many current challenges – obesogenic environments, inequitable distributions of wealth, a rise in mental illnesses, unsustainable consumption of resources – I believe equity in health care and racial justice to be the most prominent public health concerns. BIPOC communities are suffering worse health outcomes than whites due to systemic rather than individual or behavioral reasons, which calls for adaptive policy and accountability measures.