When I was a college freshman, I was among the 45% of 15-29 year old students with a stated desire to work in healthcare. Like many of these young people, I didn’t initially realize that a career in health could be outside a hospital setting–but soon discovered another exciting and important avenue in public health.
At UC Irvine, I was excited to learn everything about my intended major, Pharmaceutical Sciences, but grew curious about public health courses after speaking with my resident advisor who was studying the discipline. The introductory course resonated with me—health is about more than just treating disease, it’s about prevention and wellness promotion too. So, I redirected my focus from Pharmaceutical Sciences to Public Health to immerse myself in studying the health of people and populations. My Public Health coursework included examining randomized control trials in Epidemiology, unpacking the Affordable Care Act during its nascence in Health Policy, and evaluating perceived susceptibility and self-efficacy in Health Behavior Theory. Freeing myself from the “hospital = healthcare” mindset, I concentrated instead on the desire to collaborate with like-minded individuals to transform people’s lives and develop large-scale solutions that will leave a global impact.
In addition to my coursework, the volunteer experiences I engaged in over the years—from organizing cancer awareness events to connecting homeless women to resources in the city to increasing STI knowledge in youth—became the foundation for my passion to serve under-resourced communities. When I began my job search after graduation, I knew I needed to follow this passion. Then in 2016, I came across CAMI Health—the Secretariat for the Initiative for MPTs (IMPT). I was enticed by the women-led organization’s dedication to women’s health, which harkened to one of my favorite undergraduate courses: Maternal and Child Health. I seized the opportunity to work where I could connect my passion and understanding that multi-level factors are linked with healthcare access and services.
When I joined CAMI Health I knew that with additional training, I could make even more of an impact in the organization and the greater MPT field. So, I enrolled in the MPH program at the University of San Francisco, while continuing to work with the IMPT full-time. This provided me with an unequalled opportunity to apply in real time my in-classroom learning to my IMPT role, and vice versa. For instance, my work in reviewing and disseminating MPT-relevant literature to the IMPT listserv was especially helpful because I was better able to digest, dissect, and discuss journal articles about observational and experimental studies in Epidemiology.
Likewise, my MPH program has been instrumental to my professional growth. Courses like Program Planning, Management, Leadership, and Grant Writing helped to develop my understanding of the systems thinking approach, a strategy I have since employed in workplan management and project reporting. Furthermore, Communicating for Social Change challenged me to improve upon the communication activities I lead. I feel particularly energized by my contributions in communicating our critical activities and raising awareness for the MPT field. It’s gratifying to witness the increased engagement in the IMPT’s resource database, blog, network webinars, and social media. I’m proud of the transformation of our CAMI Facebook and Twitter as they have tripled and doubled, respectively, in audience reach. Since starting this role, I’ve also capitalized on this increase in community interest by establishing a CAMI and IMPT LinkedIn in 2017, as well as growing the IMPT Instagram and CAMI YouTube channel in early 2019 to improve stakeholder access to our MPT resources.
Based on my experience, I urge young people thinking about pursuing a health-related career to consider public health and explore avenues to professional growth through a supportive organization, and even graduate school. Although young people face barriers in entering the workforce, a panel of young professionals at the 2018 American Public Health Association Annual Meeting revealed they are motivated by causes they care about and core public health principles, and highly value networking and mentorship for their growth. Most importantly, they are ready and willing to be the fresh energy that public health requires in making global impacts, like the work I’ve been doing with the IMPT.
Young people can bring forth holistic approaches for complex problem solving and an understanding of their strategic roles in the field in order to create sound, evidence-based recommendations. I chose public health because I understand that a healthy world doesn’t depend exclusively on therapeutic medical advancements, but also necessitates prevention. I’m excited to be in a role that is both challenging and personally satisfying, particularly working in the MPT field where there is great promise for innovation and collaboration to improve the health of women and girls worldwide.
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