What inspired you to study to public health?
There are two important things that inspired me to engage in public health. The first was the dramatic increase in asthma among Puerto Rican children – including my niece, who has an asthma attack every time a Saharan dust event impacts the Island. Secondly, as an island resident, I became concerned about climate change, how it has a big impact among different populations, and how children and elderly are affected the most. These encouraged me to complete a master’s degree in environmental health and pursue a doctorate program in public health.
What has been the single most rewarding experience of your career/studies so far?
Being a student in this field has given me the opportunity to participate in a summer internship sponsored by the US Coral Task Force, where I learned new skills in working with communities affected by the contamination of the Rio Loco Watershed in Guanica, Puerto Rico. I also was able to learn how river discharge not only affects the environment, but how communities can participate and take action to improve the situation.
What is the one piece of advice you wish someone had given you when you were starting out in public health?
Public Health involves everything around us, including the environment, politics, infectious diseases, and other health disparities. It’s a lot of work, but taking action is the first step. I wish somebody would have advised me on the importance of empowering communities to take part in solving environmental problems that plague them.
What do you think is the biggest challenge that the public health field should be focusing on?
I think that mitigating the effects of climate change on public health is one of the biggest challenges mankind must face in the immediate future, by focusing on how to make governments, and people understand that this is a real problem that affects not only vulnerable populations, but everybody. Future generations need a world that will allow them to have the same quality of life we have now. As the saying goes, “The world is not a gift from our parents, it’s a loan from the future generations”.