The pandemic has put a spotlight on public health, however, the field extends far beyond just preparing for and protecting people from diseases. Public health also helps to ensure everyone is able to live their longest, healthiest lives by addressing disparities that lead to inequitable health outcomes.
As public health has many avenues to help others, students have found they are able to positively impact the world by working in this profession. From health interventions to curbing youth vaping, here are seven stories of students who are making a difference in the global community.
MPH Community Health, Baylor University Public Health Program
The Salud Para Usted y Su Familia intervention I am currently working with has specifically been rewarding because it promotes health in colonias in south Texas, the same area where my mother was raised. Being a first-generation Latina from a really small, rural, agricultural town, I’ve always been aware of social determinants of health even though I never knew what they were prior to my exposure to the public health field. Being able to work on teams and with people who are working toward solutions for underserved communities gives me hope that someday I can go back and serve the small towns I grew up in.
MPH Biosecurity & Disaster Preparedness/Epidemiology, Saint Louis University College for Public Health and Social Justice
The most rewarding experience of my studies so far was working on a study at the Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine about Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) decolonization protocols. I had a wonderful experience learning about how MRSA affects the community and testing to see what the best decolonization protocols are to prevent recurrent infections.
MPH Global Health Epidemiology, University of Michigan School of Public Health
I earned an Albert Schweitzer service fellowship and had the opportunity to volunteer in youth correctional facilities, teaching mindfulness and creative writing with a local nonprofit, the Youth Arts Alliance. 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 under-resourced community, but with the proper support, I became the first person in my family to go to graduate school. A few kids who were exiting the facility told me they weren’t going to come back and how my story/mindfulness practice convinced them they could grow.
MPH & MBA Community Health, Stony Brook University Program in Public Health
The single most rewarding experience of my career at Stony Brook’s Program of Public Health was working at the World Trade Center Health Program. This clinic serves the needs of 9/11 first responders and develops cutting-edge research. I grew up on Long Island and was only 5 years old on Sept. 11, 2001, however, I watched the long-lasting impacts 9/11 had on others around me. In a time of tragedy, these first responders ran toward a disaster to save the lives of others. Years later, these first responders are suffering from health problems associated with their selfless work. It is a privilege and an honor to be able to work with this population. I get to spend my days serving heroes, so I consider myself very lucky.
MPH Global Policy, Emory University Rollins School of Public Health
Before enrolling in my MPH program, I was working to increase access to chronic disease prevention programs to low-income populations in DC and Maryland. A major component of my responsibilities included recruiting of beneficiaries into the program, which allowed me to build relationships with those who chose to enroll. Staying in touch and following their successes through the duration of the 12-month program was extremely rewarding. I was able to witness people lose weight, become healthier, reduce their risk of diabetes, and meet their own personal goals. It was very rewarding and I was happy to be a part of their personal journeys.
MPH Health Behavior, University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health
The most rewarding experience of my studies so far has been positively impacting my community through preventative education efforts. I am completing a summer internship with the Youth Tobacco Prevention Program in Birmingham, Alabama. As an intern, I am educating groups of adolescents about the harmful effects of using tobacco products, with a focus on e-cigarettes, vapes, JUULs, and other pod-based systems. There is a lot of misinformation about these products and I find it fulfilling to share accurate information with these adolescents so they can make informed decisions about their health choices.
MPH Community & Behavioral Health, University of Iowa College of Public Health
Throughout the first year of my MPH, I developed an informal mentorship with a departmental faculty member and, subsequently, with one of his collaborators from Kenya. Together, we have designed an exploratory study in Kenya that focuses on how sociocultural traditions impact the experiences and quality of life of girls and young women. I’m leaving in June to meet these collaborators, learn and practice public health research methodology with our team, and collect data for this study. This is a very important peak moment of my experience in public health, but all of the preparation leading up to this moment, and the analysis and dissemination afterward, will culminate into a hugely rewarding public health experience overall.