What has been the single most rewarding experience of your career/studies so far?
The most rewarding experience of my studies so far has been positively impacting my community through preventative education efforts. I am completing an internship with the Youth Tobacco Prevention Program in Birmingham, AL, during the summer of 2019. As an intern, I am educating groups of adolescents about the harms of using tobacco products, with a focus on e-cigarettes, vapes, and JUULs and other pod-based systems. There is a lot of misinformation about these products, and I find it fulfilling to share accurate information with these adolescents so that they can make informed decisions about their health choices. I encourage active participation during these presentations and enjoy creating an environment where these adolescents feel comfortable asking questions. It is rewarding to know that my efforts are directly impacting my community in a positive manner, and I am grateful to have the opportunity to serve as an educator!
What do you think is the biggest challenge that the public health field should be focusing on?
I believe under immunization is one of the biggest challenges public health professionals are currently facing. One of the primary obstacles with combating under immunization is addressing the growth of vaccine hesitancy. This is complicated as the reasons for vaccine hesitancy vary from fear generated by misinformation, to distrust of the medical community, to a desire to exercise personal freedoms. As the herd immunity has dropped below the critical value in various regions, we are unfortunately witnessing a resurgence of several communicable diseases that were previously considered eradicated in those areas. In some global settings, however, we see a lack of access to health care as a primary culprit of under immunization. Addressing under immunization will require multifaceted interventions that are contextually tailored to address the factors contributing to this public health challenge. Vaccinations have saved countless lives, and I believe that they are a critical factor in continuing to advance, promote, and maintain population health.