PhD Candidate, Community Health Science
I study disparities in the prehospital care system, with a focus on Latinx older adults, under the mentorship of Dr. Hiram Beltran-Sanchez. I can trace that interest to 2015, when my monolingual Spanish-speaking grandmother was involved in a hit-and-run accident that resulted in a head injury, broken leg, and multiple contusions and lacerations. When emergency medical services arrived, she could not communicate with the first responders because they did not speak Spanish. That language barrier contributed to my family not being notified about the car accident until hours later. I vowed to conduct research designed to shape policy and practice in a way that makes the prehospital care system more equitable.
In addition to my doctoral research, being a certified health education specialist provided me with the foundation to take on a proactive role during the COVID-19 pandemic. The disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on the Latinx older-adult community amplified deep-rooted preexisting inequities. I joined the Virtual Training Academy (VTA), a partnership among UCLA Fielding, UCLA Extension, UC San Francisco, and the California Department of Public Health, under the leadership of Drs. Michael Prelip and Alina Dorian. During my three years with the VTA, I helped to train over 15,000 contact tracers and case investigators. I also worked with the VTA team to ensure trainings were available in both English and Spanish.
Closing Gaps in Disaster Resilience
MPH Student, Community Health Science
As a disaster responder, I provide comfort, care, and support to people on one of their worst days. Working closely with the community in this manner is beneficial, but also exposes me to the complex challenges people must navigate after a disaster. I quickly noticed that I often respond to the same neighborhoods, and the individuals I serve reflect my cultural background. It is difficult to consistently see people who remind me of my community losing everything and having to rebuild their lives with limited resources. A clear pattern emerged that those with lower income, limited English comprehension, or lack of a local social network face the greatest barriers to recovery.
After witnessing these disparities firsthand, I have looked to the field of public health to provide more sustainable solutions to disaster-related problems. In FSPH’s Department of Community Health Sciences, I have learned how to partner with community members to understand their needs and strengths. I plan to continue efforts to create more resilient communities through inclusive disaster preparedness programs — working with institutions to introduce more equitable disaster relief practices while ensuring that our disaster workforce is culturally competent and representative of the communities we serve.
Understanding Racism as a Health Determinant
PhD Student, Community Health Science
Black men have the lowest life expectancy and highest mortality rate among all racial or ethnic groups in the United States. In my home state of Mississippi, Black men have the highest prostate cancer death rate in the nation. These data are personal to me because they reflect my father’s premature death from this disease. Upon my father’s passing, I asked his doctor to help me understand the cause of his untimely death. The doctor simply responded, “his race.” This life-changing experience influenced my career trajectory and began my journey to understand race, and subsequently racism, as determinants of health
As an FSPH doctoral student, my work with Dr. Chandra Ford and the Center for the Study of Racism, Social Justice & Health provided me with the foundational skills to understand the complexities of structural racism, racial discrimination, and health. My current work with Dr. Courtney Thomas Tobin will foster my understanding of the linkages between racism, race-based psychosocial stressors, and disease manifestation. Studying under the tutelage of these professors in a department with values focused on social justice, equity, and academic excellence has inspired me to pursue rigorous and evidence-based research that substantiates and challenges systemic inequities experienced by marginalized and disenfranchised populations.
Advancing Reproductive Equity and Autonomy
PhD Candidate, Community Health Science
For too long, policies, social and economic inequities, and social norms have prevented people from realizing reproductive autonomy. The ability to decide whether and when to have children is key to people being able to control their bodies and lives. From a young age, I was interested in gender justice issues. Studying public health has allowed me to develop language and frameworks to understand inequities and set me on a path to pursue global sexual and reproductive health research.
I am motivated by research that can generate actionable change. In my experience, this requires deep partnerships among advocates, practitioners, community members, policymakers, and providers who have the lived experiences and expertise to ensure research is grounded in community priorities. Over the past decade, my research has focused on novel forms of sexual and reproductive healthcare, including pharmacist models, telemedicine, and community-based models for abortion and contraception care, as well as barriers and facilitators to accessing person-centered reproductive care. With the overturning of Roe v. Wade and the proliferation of restrictive policies in the U.S. that prevent people from accessing the care they need to control their reproductive lives, I hope my research can advance reproductive equity and autonomy, drawing lessons from partners who promote sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice every day.