Happy National Public Health Week (April 2-8)!!!
Since it’s NPHW, I wanted to share my story of how I became a health advocate and how that ultimately led me down the career path as a physician assistant!
My student leadership days began back in college when I was a member of an organization called VOX: Voices for Planned Parenthood. I’ve had the opportunity to lobby for reproductive rights with Planned Parenthood on multiple occasions both in Tallahassee and D.C.!
Fun fact: One of my public health classmates (pictured above) was also a fellow VOX member. We did not know it at the time until I walked into class and saw her (1+ year later)!
It was my junior year of college when I was on a “Rally to Tally” trip, where I met a group of MPH/DO students that really introduced me to the public health world. At the time, I knew I wasn’t ready for professional school and wanted to pursue a traditional MPH degree instead of a shortened dual degree.
I applied to 3 MPH programs: NOVA Southeastern, University of South Florida, and the University of Florida. I was accepted to all 3 programs, but after some careful considerations, I felt like USF offered more unique concentrations (after all, they were the first public health program in Florida) and ultimately decided to attend USF.
My original declared track was a dual concentration in epidemiology/maternal child health. Unfortunately, I felt the epidemiology track was way too research-based and I started to crave and wanted more of the clinical/practical side and switched my track to infection control.
I absolutely loved every minute of it! I have never met such passionate souls before and felt so inspired by everyone’s “shape the world” attitude. It was such an incredible experience. I understand obtaining a MPH may be costly, but I highly encourage every health care professional to take 1-2 courses in general public health! (I will have to write a separate post another day on what all an MPH degree entails and why everyone should take at least 1 course).
During my time as a graduate student, I was very fortunate to lend my Vietnamese interpretation skills to the health department as a volunteer. One opportunity led to another and before I knew it, I was offered a position to work on a CDC funded grant to investigate Hepatitis C in Young Adults.
I recall it as if it was yesterday! I was 6 months on the job. It was in early November as I was sitting at my desk, the light bulb went off that I wanted to become a PA. I’ll be honest, I was originally pre-med, but I was not educated and did not know much about the PA profession at the time. All I knew was that I wanted to be there for the patient, diagnosing, treating and educating their conditions, instead of sitting behind a desk on the phone feeling helpless. So I quickly switched gears and knew I had to work twice as hard to complete my PCE hours.
And the rest was history…
How do I use my public health skills as a physician assistant?
- For starters, I work in an academic affiliated center, so we see a very diverse population and take care of Medicaid/Medicare patients not only from the state of Florida, but we also have patients traveling from southern Alabama and Georgia!
- I try to empower each of my patients to take control of their health and make their own decisions for themselves or their family members.
- I am involved in legislation! Currently, I am serving a second term as a Student House of Delegate member for the AAPA. I vote on behalf of all PA students nationally on legislation that may affect the way PAs practice medicine or affect PA education.
- I want to contribute to the medical literature. One of the perks of working for a large university is access to research opportunities! I just completed my IRB training this week, so hopefully, I can get started on a few projects over the next few months.
- Even for those that work in a private setting, you can always find ways to use your public health skills. After all, public health (as defined by the American Public Health Association) “promotes and protects the health of people and the communities where they live, learn, work and play.”
“Everyone deserves to live a long and healthy life in a safe environment. To make this happen, we must tackle the causes of poor health and disease risk among individuals and within our communities. Where we live, work, worship and play impacts each of use and can determine our health and how long we live. In the workplace, let’s partner across public and private sectors to make sure decisions are made with the public’s health in mind. Within our communities, let’s start new conversations with our neighbors and be advocates for positive change. Working together, we can build healthier communities and, eventually, the healthiest nation.” -APHA
For more information on public health, check out: https://www.apha.org/what-is-public-health