Public health is about attaining the physical and psychological well being for each and every individual around the globe, through collaboration and partnership among private sectors, community organizations, and public health leaders.
While I was on the pre-med track in college, I was not quite sure if medicine is something I would like to do for the rest of my life. One day, I was chatting with a friend from Stanford University, and as I was telling him about my concerns, he asked me, “Do you want to save one person at a time, or a million people at the same time?” And my answer was: “A million people.” This is what inspired me to study public health.
Because public health is about achieving the overall health of individuals and not merely curing the diseases, I decided to study how traditional medicine can be incorporated into biomedical sciences to benefit the public. During the first semester of my MPH study, I initiated a research team of three MPH and one MD students, and we are conducting a systematic review on the effectiveness of Chinese herbal medicine in mitigating the side effects cancer patients experience after chemo- and radiation- therapies. The most rewarding experiences have been seeing every progress my teammates have made for this research project so far.
One piece of advice is to be open-minded. Public health is a very broad field, which encompasses everything from epidemiology to communication. When I started my MPH program, I found that professors and fellow classmates came from a diverse background. Public health professors also identify as lawyers, businessmen, and economists, and my classmates similarly have diverse backgrounds in psychology and communication. Public health is not just about health surveillance and data analyses, it is also about effective communication of health information to the public, solving public health issues through policymaking and advocacy, and efficient spending and allocation of resources.
The biggest challenge is information dissemination to the public. People often ask, “What do public health people do?” Much of the public is unaware that things around us, such as healthy food we buy in the grocery stores, filtered water we drink everyday, seatbelts we are required to put on while in the car, and safe working places where we spend may hours of our day in, are the outcomes of public health initiatives. We need to disseminate the right information to the public through the right venues.