Tashfia Jilu, MPH/MSW

University of Michigan School of Public Health
Health Behavior and Health Education

What inspired you to study public health? 

During my junior year of college, one of my professors asked our class two questions to prepare for our final assignment: “What stories and voices are being left out of the conversations in public health?” and “Whose untold stories in health are you going to tell?” These questions led me to undertake a final project, followed by a senior thesis, focusing on language accessibility in the US healthcare system. While working on these projects, I began to learn more about public health and developed a curiosity and passion to continue learning.

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

Last summer, I had the honor of serving as a student guest speaker for the inaugural year of the M-SAPHIRE program at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. The Michigan Summer Academy for Public Health Immersion, Research, and Exploration (M-SAPHIRE) is a program for rising 10th and 11th grade students from the Southfield, Detroit and Ypsilanti communities, with a mission to expose pre-college students to public health as a profession. As a current student in the department of Health Behavior and Health Education, I had the opportunity to lead a lesson on health equity and racism. Although I went in hoping to inspire young minds, I was the one who left feeling inspired. The level of engagement, perception, and thoughtfulness the students showed was truly remarkable. The conversations they were having as 16 and 17 year olds were conversations that I didn’t have until I was well into my undergraduate studies! Their curiosity and enthusiasm reminded me of why I wanted to pursue public health in the first place and re-sparked my own curiosity and enthusiasm for the field.

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

For my practicum, I had the pleasure of interning with Dr. Mary Janevic and her research team at the Center for Chronic Diseases located at the UM School of Public Health. The Janevic team partners with many different organizations and focuses primarily on empowering older adults to self-manage chronic pain and enhance overall well-being. My main focus was on two research studies: STEPS and RESET. Both studies are recruiting older adults, 50 years and older, to test the efficacy of their respective programs. The STEPS program, in partnership with Henry Ford Health, imparts skills for chronic pain self-management, while the RESET program, in collaboration with the Detroit Health Department, instructs participants in promoting their own well-being. Throughout the summer, I assisted on various aspects of these studies: attending recruitment events and creating recruitment materials, enrolling individuals, conducting telephone surveys, and entering data into REDCap. In addition to these core projects, I also assisted with the evaluation of Food First, a pilot program facilitated by the Detroit Area Agency for Aging (DAAA). This role entailed transcribing qualitative interviews and using thematic analysis to identify and categorize key themes. I was also given the opportunity to use my creative liberty and produce an engaging evaluation report for DAAA.

What do you hope to accomplish in your career? 

In my career, I hope to make meaningful structural change to the healthcare system in the U.S., particularly through policy change. Ultimately, I strive to be a catalyst for positive change, working towards a future where everyone has the opportunity to lead a healthy and fulfilling life.


One piece of advice I wish I had received earlier is to engage in events and activities that genuinely resonate with my interests, serving as constant reminders of the passion that initially drew me to public health.

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