What inspired you to study public health?
I have always been passionate about improving the overall health and wellbeing of underserved communities that are disproportionately impacted by preventable diseases. As a young child, I thought that medicine was the first line of defense against this issue. However, my perspective changed upon entering high school and college. I ultimately wanted to focus on preventing the very illnesses and diseases that I saw impacting my family and killing people within my community. During my sophomore year of college, I met with my advisor. We discussed my interests and the ways in which I wanted to impact the world. She recommended that I enroll in an introductory public health course. Taking the course greatly changed my perspective and further intrigued my interest in public health. It was then that I made a commitment to study public health. The exposure to public health has allowed me to build a foundation to practice preventive medicine as a future physician. In a way, I believe that public health chose me!
What has been the single most rewarding experience of your career/studies so far?
It is difficult to select just one single experience. However, thus far, the most rewarding experience of my studies has been being selected as a Paul Ambrose Scholar and working to implement a project that I have designed to address the need for increased HIV testing among adolescents who reside in high-risk areas within my local community.
I wish that I would have learned about the field of public health much earlier than I did. Public health is such a broad field and there are so many ways to get involved in advancing the mission of public health. It is important to gain hands-on experience in different areas and discover what you are truly passionate about, even if that means stepping outside of your comfort zone. Be willing to learn. Do not be afraid to take risk and explore! Know that there is always more work to be done but each contribution to the mission is important.
What do you think is the biggest challenge that the public health field should be focusing on?
Although public health issues may differ in different environments, it is important to understand that in many ways these issues share similarities and often times they are rooted in disparities. The biggest challenge that the public health field should be focusing on is addressing racism as a public health crisis. There are discriminatory structural and social factors that contribute to health inequities and disparities. These factors not only impact health but overall quality of life. The focus needs to shift away from short-term interventions with short-term improvements. If there is to be real change, we need to develop and implement sustainable initiatives that will conquer complex public health issues that require multifaced solutions to achieve positive health outcomes.