Sydney Ma, MPH

University of California, Irvine - Public Health, Epidemiology, Environmental Health Sciences
Sociocultural Diversity and Health

What inspired you to study public health?

Growing up, I’ve always wanted to help people out, but the only way I knew how was to become a physician or a doctor. During my time as an undergrad, I met a professor who had the same issue as me. When she was younger, she believed biology and medicine were the only ways she could make an impact on someone’s health. We were both terrified of bloodwork and needles so being in the medical field felt like a bit of a stretch. That’s when she discovered public health and became a health educator to empower her students to make a difference. Those experiences have led me here as someone who inspires to lead others in making informed decisions about their health and well-being to achieve their fullest potential.

What has been the single most rewarding experience of your career/studies so far?

My experience in the Program of Public Health at the University of California, Irvine, has always been gratifying in my public health studies. If I had to pick a particular experience, it would be when I welcomed the prospective students on the program’s admit day. I truly enjoyed the atmosphere of seeing the excitement of so many incoming students visiting our school’s new facility and expanding department. I had the fantastic opportunity to listen to the stories of students from various backgrounds and other prior fields of study about why they wanted to go into public health. It instills me with great confidence and pride when I see many new and bright faces ready to advocate for public health. That day reminded me how much I truly appreciated how public health could inspire and empower people to come together and help one another in the pursuit of equitable health.

Where did you do your practicum? What was it about?

My practicum site is with the patient education department at UCI Health. It has been a rewarding experience where I was able to feel like I am making an impact in creating promotional and educational materials to assist others with attaining positive health outcomes. Patient health education has taught me how to apply cultural sensitivity and humility while also empowering communities to take charge of their health and wellbeing. My preceptor, Tiffany Vo, continuously advocates to have an open mind and encourages us all to have confidence in attaining new professional skills and perspectives.

What do you hope to accomplish in your career?

In my career, I aspire to become a public health educator who can turn health equity for all into a reality. I want to make health promotion and learning more engaging so that achieving positive health outcomes can be an ongoing conversation for everyone. As a health educator, I aim to encourage empowerment and continual growth while respecting values and cultures. One day I plan to become a leader in health equity and public health promotion to give back to my community. I want to continue to uphold the fundamentals of public health as a place of open collaboration where intersectionality and differences will not only be seen as a challenge but as an opportunity for growth.


When I started in public health, I realized there were A LOT of group projects and always wondered why. As I continued my academic career, I realized there is a lot of complexity of intersectional caveats to public health. I want to tell whoever is reading this: Always keep an open mind, as everyone has different values and perspectives. Finding that angle where we all can align and make a difference together can be all the more rewarding. You might even learn something you never would have expected.

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