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Jorge E Vilches

MD, Public Health, School of Public Health at the University of Chile

What does public health mean to you?

For me, Public Health means the better approach to understand and respond to health in the communities because this discipline considers all factors that could be determinant in health status, including and beyond the healthcare system. When understood community health, it can propose “treatment” like policies/strategies/programs to elevate population health level.

What inspired you to study public health?

My decision to study public health was inspired by the possibility of make changes improving health status on the population, impacting a lot of people and not only at individual level. I observed this working as a general practitioner (2015-2019) in Iquique, a city in the north of Chile and my birthplace, where Tuberculosis (TB) incidence rate is the highest of the country. Working in the local TB program I understood that individual measures were not enough to stop disease transmission. That issue extended in my mind to many other health problems and pushed me to study public health.

What has been the single most rewarding experience of your career or studies so far?

The most rewarding experience in my studies in the public health medical residency program occurs during this present time. The opportunity to apply public health learned theoretical and practical subjects (epidemiology, health policies and programs, strategic planification and management, others) among my activities on Health sector institutions. Currently, I am developing my third year residency mandatory rotation into the Ministry of Health (April-June) in COVID-19 pandemic context. These kinds of activities show me the real world where public health develops its tools and how my performance in practice can contribute to the country’s response to this public health emergency of international concern. Also, trying to keep these unique learning processes to my future work career.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing public health today?

I think the biggest challenge facing by public health today is to persuade decision makers about the value of health on its different areas, not only strengthening the healthcare system, because many other issues on decision makers’ hands -like economic distribution, education access and quality, an others- contributing to get better or worse population health level. The importance of considering the public health perspective in all policies.

What advice would you offer someone who is thinking about a career in public health? 

I would advise, to raise discipline consideration and prioritization, the Public Health career needs more people with disciplinary knowledge work in. If your interest is to approach health from an integral perspective and develop responses that could impact at population level, let’s go! Public health is amazing, your discipline and next career.

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