Public health is the combination of a variety of interests and skills (engineering, medicine, environmental, education, etc.) coming together to provide people with the opportunities to lead healthier lives.
Working in my own Miami community was my first opportunity to see the benefit and rewards of public health. As a young Hispanic woman, I identified myself with many of my patients and before I knew it I was being part of programs that focused on prevention and treatment of chronic diseases for minorities. Many of the people I worked with lacked appropriate access to care and suffered from preventable illnesses that could be alleviated with better health education and higher quality healthcare. This motivated me to decide to study toward becoming a health professional that could be part of the programs and efforts to eliminate these health disparities.
For my Capstone project, I had the opportunity to go to Cartagena, Colombia and work with the Juan Felipe Gomez Escobar Foundation. The foundation serves teenage mothers and helps them escape the cycle of poverty by teaching them productive life skills and providing them with health services. I was able to work as a public health scientist and develop a project that benefited this community and appealed to my interests in maternal and child health. It was an invaluable experience and truly made me see first hand the benefits of health education, access to care, and inter-sectoral collaboration.
Get involved in your own community! Some of my fondest memories have been while volunteering and managing projects in Miami. Public health opportunities are everywhere and we are in this field to serve others. Each one of us has unique talents and skills that we can offer. This will be your chance to see public health in action and be part of something that your community can benefit from.
It is hard to choose the biggest challenge! I do think that as public health professionals we do exceptional work in research and on the field but not in communicating effectively with the population we are aiming to serve and be informed. We need to find innovative and direct ways to translate all our research efforts and findings to the general population so they have the opportunity to use this information and lead healthier lives.