Public health is getting the largest number of people in best health possible with efficiency, compassion, and collaboration.
As an undergrad at the University of Florida I did research in behavioral and health psychology with Dr. Carolyn Tucker and worked on several programs that focused on exercise and nutrition in low-income communities. I designed and taught aerobics classes, cooking classes, and yes, even a Zumba-style class or two in the community. My mentor had an MPH and exposed me to a whole new world of healing communities and not just individuals. I got hooked on the idea that there was more to healing than just the one on one interaction of a physician and a patient.
Between my first and second years of medical school, I spent the summer in Nicaragua implementing an intervention to reduce the rates of childhood anemia in 27 rural communities. I partnered with AMOS, a faith based organization headquartered in Nicaragua that supports the communities. After gathering information from community members regarding their level of knowledge and preferred teaching methods, I collaborated with the community health workers to develop a curriculum to sustainably reduce the incidence of childhood anemia in these communities. I made lifelong friends and learned a lot about working in low resource environments.
It may seem silly, but I really wish someone told me how important it is to have business cards with you even as a student. When you are out and about in the community you meet so many interesting people you would like to be able to contact later and business cards are a great way to give them your information quickly and professionally. It isn’t always convenient to pull out your cell phone and exchange numbers but there is usually time to had a card to someone
Depending on the scope of your public health interest I would have to say the biggest challenge facing us is the way health care is delivered and how much it costs in this country. We are one of the greatest countries in the world in so many areas yet the inefficiency and cost per person of our healthcare is astounding… especially considering we are not—and it’s not even that close—the best when it comes to keeping our population healthy. There have been some good strides in the right direction but we are definitely not there yet.