I earned a service fellowship and had the opportunity to volunteer in a youth correctional facility, mostly teaching mindfulness and helping with art programming. It was terrific seeing the hope in the eyes of the youth after they heard my life story. Representation matters – I grew up poor and in an underresourced community, but with the proper support, I became the first person in my family to go to graduate school. A few youths who were exiting the facility told me they weren’t ever going to come back and how my story/mindfulness practice convinced them they could grow.
Public health, like much of academia, often prioritizes publications over impact. There are many reasons for this from the funding incentives to how one gains academic prestige, but the primary reason I’ve found is public health students often come from privileged backgrounds. There are few people of color in public health, especially those from resource-poor communities, so justice and equity are usually not an institutional priority.