Student Perspectives: Health Policy and Management
Empowering Populations Through Research
PhD Candidate, Health Policy and Management
While everyone is born with potential, not everyone is afforded opportunity. I was. My family is part of the largest refugee resettlement in U.S. history — among the 3.1 million Southeast Asians who fled war, persecution, and genocide. The seven of us lived in an illegally converted garage for the first five years of our American lives, but we had legal status and all the benefits that confers because advocates and policymakers created pathways for us. Even though my parents can’t speak English and never finished high school, social benefits kept me out of poverty and in school. As my experience attests, the health and well-being of disenfranchised populations relies on society effectively connecting the dots between policy, practice, and people.
In UCLA Fielding, I found a community that has given me the opportunities, guardrails, and parachutes to hone my skills in health systems evaluation research and applied policy. Research and data determine what programs are evidence-based and “deserving” of dollars. Unfortunately, the most disenfranchised may not have the capacity to find data or do research — and, thus, struggle to have their needs and assets recognized. My life’s purpose is to close some of these research gaps, transforming data into actionable outcomes and bridging between policymakers, health systems, and the communities I love.
Advocating for Underserved Communities
MPH ’23, Health Policy and Management
My journey to public health began as a child in the fruit orchards of Northern California. My path was shaped by the 9/11 terrorist attacks and focused by my experience over the past 10 years as a physician associate (PA) working with vulnerable and underserved communities. Whether picking fruit in an orchard in California, conducting combat operations in Afghanistan, or providing healthcare in rural Alaska, I have experienced a unifying thread of politics and policy decisions having a direct impact on the health and well-being of people.
I decided to become a PA after working with military PAs in Iraq and Afghanistan. I took the skills I learned in the military and combined them with my medical training to provide community-oriented healthcare to vulnerable populations. What I learned is that my ability to help patients is not solely determined by my knowledge and experience, but by policies that determine what level of care I am able to provide. I decided to attend FSPH’s Executive Master of Public Health program to gain the skill set to better navigate policy, improve the management of healthcare organizations, and advocate for positive change to improve the health and well-being of underserved communities across the United States and around the world.
Tackling Healthcare System Inequities
MHA ’23, Health Policy and Management
Driven by a profound desire to serve and create impact, my passion for healthcare administration stems from a journey of diverse roles. From volunteering at hospitals to interning with nonprofits, I have witnessed the pressing needs of underserved populations and the influential role of social determinants of health, particularly in communities of color.
My ultimate goal is to lead sustainable initiatives in healthcare as a C-suite executive, tackling public health disparities and system challenges. The UCLA Master of Healthcare Administration program, guided by exceptional professors, has prepared me profoundly for the challenges and responsibilities ahead, instilling in me a deep understanding of healthcare complexities. My professors challenged me to think beyond conventional solutions, embrace new perspectives, and approach problems with a strategic mindset. Their dedication to excellence and unwavering support has empowered me to tackle the upcoming challenges confidently and firmly.
Following graduation, I am embarking on my role as the system level administrative fellow for the Providence Clinical Network, fully aware of the need for innovative and holistic approaches to address community-specific health issues. As a catalyst for change, I will utilize my personal, professional, and educational experiences from UCLA Fielding to contribute to the well-being of my cherished community.
Advancing Immigrant and Refugee Health
PhD ’23, Health Policy and Management
Throughout my early career in international programs and immigrant and refugee services, I found myself continually seeking out scientific evidence to inform our work. This led me to the pursuit of a PhD and finding my home in public health. I was drawn to public health, and health policy specifically, because of the interdisciplinary nature of the research and how the work is meant to have audiences and impact outside of academia. We ask research questions and design studies with the goal of producing science to inform policies, programs, and the delivery of health services — aspects of society that affect the daily lives of people everywhere.
Under the mentorship of Drs. Corrina Moucheraud and Randall Kuhn, I have examined the impact of migration and social structures on health service utilization, advancing the literature about the health of migrant-sending communities in South and Southeast Asia. Through my FSPH training, I have learned how to seek answers to the difficult health equity questions I am drawn to. I also learned how to build an academic career that is meaningful to me and supports the development of the next generation of public health leaders. I look forward to beginning this career as an assistant professor of health policy and management at California State University, Long Beach.