Profiles in Public Health


Carolyn John

MPH, Design and Conduct of Public Health Research and Maternal & Child Health

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

Public health is all about getting down on your knees, looking someone else in the eye and realizing that you could be them, but the only thing that separates you from them is privilege.

2. What inspired you to study public health?

While pursuing my bachelors in biotechnology, I had the opportunity to volunteer with the Indian Red Cross in southern India. Working with and for the local community helped me realize that health is more than just cellular pathways and genetic modifications. Despite acclaimed advances in medical sciences, accessibility to and availability of basic economic health care is still a distant dream for many across the globe. I felt the need to contribute to long lasting, meaningful changes in the field of community health and thus decided to pursue a degree in public health.

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

Being a part of Red Cross, my team and I would regularly receive requests for blood donors from people whose family members were admitted in nearby hospitals. Most of these families would hail from low-income populations and would not be able to afford the services provided by the blood banks. In order to help them, my team and I would arrange for blood donors without asking anything in return from the recipients. My single most rewarding experience was when a recipient’s elderly father had thanked me with tears in his eyes for saving his child’s life. A small act of arranging for some blood donors had made a huge difference in that man’s life.

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

Get on the field. Experience what someone else faces on a daily basis. This is something books will never be able to teach you. Working with the community and with individuals who are just as passionate as you are, will give you a great start into public health. And when you are out there, always believe that you can  make a difference, one life at a time.

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

I believe that one of the biggest challenges in public health worldwide is providing equitable health care. Most often than not, those who need healthcare the most; receive the least. I strongly believe that with consistent efforts and a strong collaboration between public health professionals, policy makers and the community; a basic human right of receiving adequate healthcare will not seem like a distant dream.

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