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Profiles in Public Health

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Clarisa Medina

MPH, Health Policy & Management

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

I think of public health as helping communities live healthier lives through education, research, and law.

2. What inspired you to study public health?

I did not initially plan to study public health – I wanted to work in diplomacy — but the Gates Millennium Scholarship program, which has fully funded my post-secondary education, inspired me to take a different path. The Gates Foundation showed me that through the interdisciplinary nature of public health, I can help others in a variety of ways.

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

The single most rewarding experience thus far has been working for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Public Health Law Program. Before starting there, I did not have a clear understanding of what public health and practice look like, but the CDC has showed me exactly that. The opportunity has been life changing. I have been able to work in almost every field in public health, so now I understand first-hand how everything is tied together. I have been able to do everything, from scientifically comparing laws across jurisdictions to building competency models for public health practioners.

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

I wish someone would have told me it is okay to venture into the different sub-fields of public health. I have not had the chance to study every area that public health encompasses, and I wish I would have designated time in my degree program to do so.

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

I do not think public health faces just one big challenge. I think there are various big issues, but they are equally important. They include increases in chronic disease, the opioid epidemic, the threat of bioterrorism, and so much more. Public health issues are constantly emerging, and all of them are equally important.

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