Public health is my passion. It is the ability to systematically identify and prevent disease through collaboration between interdisciplinary teams, communities, and populations.
I first discovered public health during my undergraduate career at UC Berkeley. A course on population and poverty made a particularly big impact—I specifically remember learning about Iranian female community health workers and how their work lowered the national total fertility rate from 5.5 to under 2.8 in just 8 years. The impact of their work inspired me, and when I delved further into the field, I began to recognize the immense value of collaborating with local community members to achieve common goals. I was inspired by that lesson and have had the opportunity to apply it and learn through my work in domestic communities as well as abroad in Nicaragua, India, Nepal, and Haiti. The study of public health continually inspires me and helps me to equip myself with a foundation to really make a difference.
The single most rewarding experience of my studies has been validation that my work in patient education can make a difference. While my work is longitudinal, and will take some time to see an effect, it is so rewarding to see physicians and public health professionals getting excited about my public health projects. Their support pushes me to work harder, and seeing their willingness to dedicate time and effort toward my ideas because they believe in what I am trying to do is the best reward I have received thus far. Now I can only hope that our efforts succeed in our communities!
I’m a newbie to this field, but one thing I would say is to remember to involve community members in your efforts. I have learned that no matter how hard we work or try to understand a culture, there are nuances that we will never be able to fully grasp. There is tremendous power in involving community members and making them an integral part of your team. I would also recommend surrounding yourself with people that share a similar passion – it’s not only inspiring, but you learn a lot!
I truly believe in the power of education. I think as aspiring physicians, we are trained to listen to patients, but we often forget the power that they hold in their own care and self-management. I believe that we should empower our patients to understand their medical condition, ask the right questions, and take responsibility of themselves. I’ve dedicated my medical education thus far to researching and creating resources to accomplish this goal. Something else I’ve come to realize is the fact that each community is unique, be it in the U.S. or India, and I believe that a particular challenge for the field of public health will be identifying lapses in knowledge and ways to effectively present educational material in a culturally appropriate context.