What inspired you to study public health?
I was inspired to study public health because it focuses on prevention and how every day life impacts our health. For example, where you live, where you work, your behaviors, your race, gender, social environment, and where you play all impact your health outcomes. I do not think we give all those things enough credit when we are looking at one’s health. Our focus in our society tends to react rather than prevent. We treat someone with symptoms instead of thinking about preventing their symptoms all together. I want to be a part of public health to focus on prevention and looking at improvements in every day lives to increase positive health outcomes.
What has been the single most rewarding experience of your career/studies so far?
The most rewarding experience in my career so far was helping out a women access a free mammogram. I do this for my job all the time, however, there is one specific experience that was rewarding. I went into a laundromat in town to hang up flyers for cervical cancer awareness month (January) and promote our program that offers free cancer screenings. The lady at the front desk asked me about mammograms. Luckily our program offers free mammograms to women who have no health insurance. She told me she did not have health insurance because she makes too much for Medicaid but not enough to afford private insurance. She also mentioned she had not been to the doctor since 2006 (this happened in 2019) and she had recently been feeling pain in her breast. I signed her up for the program immediately and scheduled her for her mammogram. It turns out she had breast cancer, however, she caught it early and was able to get her care covered for. This is public health, reaching those who are neglected by society or fall through the cracks and connecting them to services.
A piece of advice I wish someone had given me when I was starting in public health is to take it one day at a time. When I started working in public health I wanted to change 101 things in 5 days and was disappointed and discouraged when that did not happen. I learned the hard way that public health does not work that way, but that does not mean we should give up. Our work takes time, consistency, perseverance, and patience. And yes, it will be worth it.
What do you think is the biggest challenge that the public health field should be focusing on?
I think the biggest challenge that the public health field should be focusing on is health inequities and social justice. I would argue that health inequities and social justice issues are the biggest contributors to illness and disease. We need to think about health inequities in our every day life and work in order to positively contribute to the health and well-being of the populations we serve.