Albana Ochaeta, MPH

Temple University College of Public Health
Social and Behavioral Sciences

What is public health to you?

It is a field that aims to improve health outcomes in populations–whether locally or globally–through intersectoral collaboratives focused on prevention, education, and research.

What inspired you to study public health?

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic shed light on the importance of public health research and development, the broad and inclusive nature of the field attracted me. I noticed that everyone, regardless of their educational background, can contribute something of worth to this field–that is the whole point. Personally, I aimed to grow in knowledge concerning health behaviors and how they are related to health outcomes in the long term.

What has been the single most rewarding experience of your career/studies so far?
I recently had the opportunity to speak with some prospective students at my university regarding our public health programs. Many of them mentioned they were nervous to start, especially because a lot of them did not come from public health backgrounds. As someone who also changed career paths and experienced similar imposter syndrome during my first semester, I was able to encourage them and essentially say “it gets better and there is a place for you and your expertise”. Opportunities like this serve as a reminder of what public health’s focus should always be–people. I love that this field brings together people from different professions and backgrounds!

I wish someone had told me that it is normal to feel imposter syndrome when you first start out in your program–especially because a lot of your classmates might come from healthcare backgrounds. As someone who studied psychology, I thought that those students were the ones who truly knew about health while I didn’t have much to contribute. I was quickly proven wrong–noticing that the various backgrounds and perspectives brought by our cohort served as a strength! While imposter syndrome is normal, it will go away–you just have to keep pushing through.

What do you think is the biggest challenge that the public health field should be focusing on?
It seems like the majority of public health interventions are directed at physical health outcomes rather than mental/socioemotional outcomes. While physical outcomes are important, I think it is important to keep in mind that they are intertwined with mental health outcomes. The pandemic has caused a sharp rise in negative mental health outcomes which can consequently cause a rise in healthcare costs, injuries, and deaths. I believe more funding should go towards educational campaigns and interventions regarding holistic approaches to health–especially during such a disruptive time.