Tamara Telles, MPH

University of Nevada, Reno/School of Public Health
Social and Behavioral Health

Summarize your background:
Tamara Telles is the USDA Rural Health Fellow with the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH), working alongside USDA’s Rural Health Liaison across USDA. Over the past decade, Tamara has worked on diverse public health initiatives in rural, frontier, and urban settings across several states and countries within non-profit organizations, academia, and currently at the federal level. Ms. Telles received her master’s in public health (MPH) with an emphasis in social and behavioral health from the University of Nevada, Reno’s School of Public Health.

What was your motivation to study public health?
Public health found me during my undergraduate studies in pre-nursing. After my first public health 101 course, I transitioned my major to public health with an emphasis in global health studies. This field requires continuous learning, passion, and adaptation to create lasting health impacts, which excites me. The idea of improving overall health for populations with diverse needs through prevention and education, advocacy, and programs seemed like a greater challenge and in line with my fundamental belief that everyone should have the opportunity and privilege to thrive.

Why are you interested in working in public health?
My passion for global health, minority health, and health equity has continued to guide me to accept new opportunities and challenges within the public health field. I enjoy implemented and evaluating programs that utilize culturally-adapted best practices to address communities’ unique needs and leverage strengths, such as strong social and community context, to create lasting impacts in diverse communities nationally and in developing countries around the world. Throughout my career and studies, I have had the privilege to immerse myself into unique settings to learn about diverse cultures, explore new places, and connect with others all while working to improve overall health and wellness. There is never a dull moment in public health.

What do you hope to accomplish in this program?
I hope the ASPPH/USDA Rural Health Fellowship will provide me unique, challenging, and skill-enhancing experiences to broaden my knowledge and perspective in public health that will cross over to my passions and career goals of strengthening other communities who face disparities nationally and in developing countries around the world. By accomplishing this, I hope it will lead me to further my career and  eventually be in a leadership position either at the federal level or an NGO to create successful, sustainable, and equitable health impacts in vulnerable and disadvantaged communities – domestically and internationally – by utilizing the skills, knowledge, leadership, and relationships developed through my experiences.

Brief overview of fellowship project based on project description and/or conversations with USDA mentors…

My Rural Health Fellowship with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is focused primarily on assisting the USDA’s Rural Health Liaison. The enumerated responsibilities I support are outlined in the 2018Farm  Bill and include coordination and collaboration in service of rural health across the department, between USDA  and  HHS, and between USDA and other partners and stakeholders. In addition, sharing data about USDA programs and rural health across USDA and with partners, customers, and stakeholders is an important part of this work. The overarching goal is to support USDA’s efforts to improve rural health in rural and Tribal communities across the nation.

This fellowship has provided me the opportunity to work on several different rural health projects. New skills I am quickly developing are creating memo briefs and talking points for USDA leadership, writing a congressional report on farm stress, supporting the development of multiple national strategies on diverse federal interagency working groups, attending rural health advisory committee meetings, and collaborating with federal government departments and multiple agencies from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on rural health initiatives. One of the projects I am leading is the development and publication of a United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development (USDA-RD) and Department of Health and Human Services Health Resource and Services Administration (HHS-HRSA) Rural Maternal Health Guide and Toolkit accompanied by the coordination of three pilot projects being conducted in partnership with Texas A&M’s Rural Community Health Institute and USDA’s Rural Partners Network.

Exposure to federal government work, protocols, and the opportunity to meet and support experts and leaders across USDA and other federal agencies has not only gifted me amazing learning experiences and personal growth, but also the privilege to network and expand my knowledge and understanding of what else I can do as a public health professional. It is a true privilege to accept this opportunity and gain the most out
of it.