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Profiles in Public Health

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Molly Phares

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

Public health is promoting health through a community effort and lowering health threats and disparities.

2. What inspired you to study to public health?

I’ve always enjoyed helping people at the individual level whether it’s feeding the homeless or being a reading buddy at an after-school reading program. Public health encompasses so many of these things, but on a greater scale. I was really inspired by my husband to pursue my public health degree. As a dental student, he explained to me the many health disparities associated with oral health and the devastating impacts poor oral health can have on an individual’s life. This has inspired me to pursue a career in this unique field.

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

The most rewarding experience of my studies so far was planning our 2nd annual Rocky Mountain Region Public Health Case Competition on my home campus. We were able to recruit over 100 students that came from various disciplines and raised almost $25,000 dollars. The winning teams were awarded scholarship money and will get a chance to compete on a global level at the Emory public health case competition this spring! It was a great experience that introduced me to many local health professionals and gave me great fundraising experience.

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

Don’t forget to be a community member! It was easy to get caught up in the daily life of a graduate public health student. I spent all of my time going to class, exploring internship opportunities, and meeting with professors/advisors. I forgot to keep doing the things I love like gardening and running. I think it’s important to be an active member of the community you live in and can be just as rewarding as being a good student.

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

I think the biggest challenge in public health is disseminating our findings in a way that the community will understand, accept, and support. All our hard work is meaningless if we can’t communicate effectively with the community and give them the tools they need to improve health.

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