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Profiles in Public Health

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Mariam Irshad

MPH, Health Policy and Management

1. In one sentence, what is public health to you?

Public health is the art and science of protecting the health of populations. Imagine the impact of healing a single person or fixing an individual condition; now multiple that by hundreds, thousands, even millions – that’s the impact of public health.

2. What inspired you to study to public health?

Growing up in a family of physicians, I always had a firm interest in the field of medicine. However, within the medical field, I was looking for a discipline that tested creativity, imagination, innovation, and leadership. I was first inspired by public health when I committed to pursuing it as a major during my undergraduate career. I still remember the first group advising session, when the Dean of the program introduced the idea of preventative medicine. The focus was shifted from finding a cure to preventing the problem, which was fresh and exciting. Over time, through various leadership roles, public health became my passion, and led me to my purpose and long-term goal of improving quality of life and making a difference on both the micro and macro level; even if it’s one patient, one community, and one nation at a time.

3. What has been the single most rewarding experience of your career/studies so far?

The single most rewarding experience was my trip with a medical team to a village in Dominican Republic. Our mission was to reconstruct a community health center destroyed by a tropical storm, and provide health education to local villagers. I promoted hand hygiene, sanitation and oral health care. They were simple preventative tactics, yet are such important factors for staying healthy in their daily lives. After seeing the difficult challenges people face within these impoverished communities, I realized in order to create a healthier nation, we need to target the most vulnerable populations and provide them with equal opportunities for a better future.

4. What is the one piece of advice you wish someone had given you when you were starting out in public health?

The only way to learn public health is by doing public health, so get involved! Public health is so diverse and can be tied into almost any field of study. Find your passion, create and share a vision, engage others in the process, and let your passion lead you to your purpose.

5. What do you think is the biggest challenge that the public health field should be focusing on?

Public health faces the challenge of creating a standard of care that meets the needs of a population efficiently, effectively and economically. This could be due to differences in training, practice, and expertise across countries. Best practices need to be researched and a standard of care needs to be implemented in order for healthcare systems to provide affordable and quality care that is accessible to all populations.

 

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