MPH, Infectious Disease, Virginia Tech Public Health Program
What inspired you to study public health?
One summer I was working at a summer camp and a handful of campers and staff members suddenly ended up sick. We had to call in the local health department, and they had me help collect some data for analysis, and I knew I wanted to do exactly that. I wanted to be a part of an outbreak investigation team, but also I wanted to then be able to teach affected community members about disease control measures.
What has been the single most rewarding experience of your career/studies so far?
For me, the most rewarding experience was coming home after having lived in Spain and being able to communicate effectively in Spanish to the general population. I was working one night and this mom and her son came up to the front desk to ask a question, but the mom only spoke Spanish and was using her son to translate. I was able to step up and use my Spanish skills and talk directly to the mom. The look she had when she realized I could help her and talk to her was of relief and gratitude. So often people living here in the US are shamed for not being able to speak English. I was able to work with someone who needed help and communicate with a population different than my own, and that to me was the most rewarding experience, and what drives me to keep pursuing public health.
As an undergraduate looking into public health, it almost seemed as if it was a major that would not get you very far in life. It was a major that your parents told you not to pursue because you would take on a bunch of student loans and have no job prospect after the fact. But, public health is so broad that you can actually do so much in the field. I want to focus on infectious diseases and outbreak epidemiology, but someone else can focus on maternal medicine or racism. You can focus on policy development in the government or access to transportation. While public health is such a large field, there is something in the field that probably interests you and you can turn that into a career. Don’t be afraid of the field, but find a part you like, and DO IT!
What do you think is the biggest challenge that the public health field should be focusing on?