MPH, Environmental and Occupational Health, Oregon State University College of Public Health and Human Sciences
In one sentence, what is public health to you?
Public health focuses on the health inequities and injustices that disproportionately affect people and strive to improve the health and well being of those communities, the environment, and social structures.
What inspired you to study public health?
I have always been interested in a career that focuses on helping people and ensuring a healthy environment, but the field of public health has opened my eyes to abundant opportunities to make real change within communities to improve public health and understanding of the public’s rights. My passion in public health started within the environmental health field as the presence of climate change, environmental injustices, and pollution have grown. I see the benefits of engaging with and educating the public to address health inequities and injustices, by advocating for and empowering the public.
What has been the single most rewarding experience of your career/studies so far?
I feel as though my educational and work experiences have been rewarding by knowing how my work makes a difference and is helping improve the health of the public and the environment. Most recently, I had the opportunity with some fellow classmates to present data to local elementary school staff about the dangerous levels of metals we found in their school gardens. This experience was rewarding because us students were able to communicate our results and the school teachers learned why our data analysis was important. We were able to provide solutions and recommendations to the schools where we found high levels of metals in the garden soils, and that was rewarding to be able to bring to light a problem and then be able to provide some resolutions.
Since public health is a large field with a variety of expertise within it, my advice is to try and experience as much as you can. Get hands on experience through internships and practicums with topics that sound interesting to you and even ones that don’t. I also suggest taking classes outside your scope of public health to broaden your knowledge and enhance your skill set.
What do you think is the biggest challenge that the public health field should be focusing on?
There are so many challenges facing the health of the public right now, but I think a pressing one is social and environmental injustices. There are a variety of health inequities from pollution, toxic waste, and climate change that disproportionately affect low income communities and people of color. Environmental injustices is environmental racism, and is something the field of public health needs to be focusing on. Environmental racism is a part of systemic racism that impacts the health and well being of all people and must be addressed.