Public health is empowering the disadvantaged and disenfranchised.
I was inspired to study public health after volunteering with a medical clinic for the homeless in New Mexico. Working with disadvantaged populations who visited the clinic, I realized that as a public health professional, I could directly affect whole communities as well as individuals. The notion that as a public health professional we can grapple with and conquer large health issues, and change not only our lives but the lives of entire populations, is what inspired me to study public health.
The single most rewarding experience I have had thus far was during my practicum with the American Cancer Society. Working with their colorectal cancer screening initiative, I had the opportunity to be a health educator. My experiences with the individuals I educated, and seeing what a difference we were making in their lives was a rewarding experience that I will never forget.
One piece of advice that I wish someone had given me would be to be patient with what I wanted to do and that it is okay to have a broad focus. Public health can be a very fluid career insomuch that there are so many different opportunities. I wish someone had told me to embrace that, earlier in my schooling, because once I finally did, my perception and love of public health increased dramatically.
The biggest challenge that the public health field should be continuing to focus on is bringing public health to the local level. While national policies and movements are very important in increasing awareness and understanding of what public health is, true action and change is done at the local level. I wish for and hope that the public health community will continue to increase their focus on providing services locally in order to decrease health disparities between diverse groups, and over time, level the playing field to foster positive health promotion and a healthier world in which to live.