In one sentence, what is public health to you?
Public health is about preparedness and incorporating a health equity lens to promote healthy outcomes for all.
What inspired you to study public health?
While I was completing my BS in Rural Community Development, I took a class on population health and issues in rural health. These classes exposed me to concepts of public health and barriers to health in rural communities before I even knew it was public health. I focused a lot of my undergraduate research on migrant farmworker health and eHealth literacy skills of undergraduate nursing students. Before graduating with my BS, I landed a position as a social needs screener for a CMS funded grant department where I screened Medicaid and Medicare patients for social determinants of health. It was through this experience that solidified my decision to pursue public health and showed me firsthand the gaps that existed within the healthcare system and the limited access to services in rural communities.
What has been the single most rewarding experience of your career/studies so far?
I’ve had the opportunity to engage with many initiatives to promote a more inclusive environment for students, share my experiences in public health with those interested in public health and engage with community stakeholders through work as a graduate research assistant as well as participating in the COVID-19 response as an Epidemiology Assistant with the Georgia Dept. of Public Health. Opportunities like these have been rewarding and I look forward to seeing what’s next!
Keep an open mind and know how to market your skills – Public health involves everything and isn’t limited to research. As someone who didn’t possess formal public health education before entering a masters program, some of the skillsets I have are not considered traditional to the field but applicable to public health practice. Knowing how to advocate for your strengths and your skillset will help you advance in your career.
What do you think is the biggest challenge that the public health field should be focusing on?
Given the current circumstances, I think the biggest challenge facing public health is improving coordination of preparedness and response efforts, especially in healthcare and continuing to improve health equity. The response to COVID-19 has shown that our most vulnerable communities continue to be burdened with health inequities. Public health is preparedness. Moving forward we must continue to plan measures and activities with a health equity lens to ensure the advancement of positive health outcomes for our communities before emergencies arise.