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Enabling Future Public Health Leaders to Follow Their Dreams

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AS AN UNDOCUMENTED STUDENT set to graduate from UCLA’s three-year dual master’s program in public health and public policy, Regem Corpuz (above, second from right) has been motivated by his experience immigrating to the United States as a child, when a clerical error rendered him undocumented.

“Despite entering the U.S. lawfully and doing everything right, I became one of the millions who fell through the cracks,” Corpuz says. “Like the experiences of many other undocumented immigrants, mine demonstrates that the lives and wellbeing of communities are very much subject to policy.”

Corpuz’s concern about the impact of institutional barriers on the health of undocumented immigrants led him to the Fielding School. “As an immigrant student, paying for college out of pocket was stressful for me,” he says. “Realizing I had limited access to financial aid was even more stressful.” Receiving the Future Public Health Leaders Fellowship proved transformative to Corpuz, as it has for all 40 students awarded the scholarship provided by the Dream Fund at UCLA. The fund was born out of the vision and unwavering generosity of the late businessman and humanitarian Kirk Kerkorian. These scholarships, launched by a generous gift from the Dream Fund, have succeeded at their goal of bridging students’ dreams with the means to make them possible. As one of the first endowed fellowships of the Fielding School’s Centennial Campaign, the Future Public Health Leaders Fellowship helped to inspire an additional $6.19 million raised to provide 116 students with fellowship and fieldwork support that is critical to educating and training the public health workforce needed to keep communities healthy.

Students like Corpuz and the full cohort of Future Public Health Leaders are poised to play a pivotal role in the health of populations in the U.S. and overseas, but for so many of these potential leaders, a public health education is difficult if not impossible without financial assistance. The Future Public Health Leaders Fellowship provides full tuition support, ensuring that cost is no longer a barrier for students from, or committed to working in, high-need communities. Students supported by the fellowship have gone on to positions in such organizations as Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles; UCLA Health, Women’s and Children’s Services; and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as well as to further their academic pursuits at leading institutions such as the University of Michigan Medical School and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

With the fellowship support, Corpuz completed his field studies as a policy advocate for California’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA), where he participated in a campaign to implement a statewide workplace violence prevention program for health care workers. Today, Corpuz says his focus is on advocating for minimum-wage workers who struggle to provide for their families despite holding multiple jobs, and who are subject to poor working conditions. “In advocacy and policymaking,” Corpuz says, “I try to listen to workers and see how I can be their megaphone — amplifying their voices as they speak their truth to power.”