Hana al’Absi

Public Health Administration & Policy MPH

"I envision an inclusive space that helps foster every individual’s growth, and I am really excited about the Strategic Plan for Antiracism because I think it is a significant step towards achieving that vision."

First, I’d like to know a little bit about you as a person. Where did you grow up? Where did you attend undergrad and what was your degree/area of study?

[Hana] I grew up in Duluth, MN and spent about 16 years there. I went to the U of M for undergrad, where I got my degree in sociology of law, criminology, and justice and minored in public health. I’ve always had an interest in public health, so if there were an option for the public health major back when I was in undergrad, I probably would have done it.

What drew you to public health? 
[Hana] I was drawn to public health because I wanted to improve population health instead of focusing on an individual level. That said, public health is so broad that it was difficult for me to know what to study or pursue. I worked on a project during undergrad that studied the effects of wealth and access to healthcare on pregnancy and delivery outcomes for people living in Yemen, which really piqued my interest in global health, health policy, and health equity.

What specific issue, problem, or area of research in public health do you care the most about and why? 

[Hana] I am really interested in improving health outcomes for people in developing countries. Many of the people in these countries face barriers and health challenges that are preventable. I think we really need to improve data collection to understand how big some of these issues are which will allow us to allocate the necessary resources and funds to deal with global public health problems. There has to be both more transparency and more investment to eradicate some of these preventable ailments.

MPH Student Hana al'Absi
MPH Student Hana al’Absi

Are you currently involved in any public health research or professional work? 

[Hana] I just started a new position with the Minnesota Department of Health as a refugee health worker! I am very excited at the prospect of working to improve the health of immigrants and refugees in Minnesota. I also work as a graduate assistant for SPH’s Health Equity Work Group, which is always looking for new members!

Why did you choose to come to the U of M School of Public Health? 

[Hana] Since I completed my undergrad here, it was an easy transition into SPH. I have some connections both at the University and in the community, and that really helped inform my decision. I think knowing the community that you’re working with is important in public health, and I’ve volunteered and been a part of this community for a long time. There was also a huge financial incentive to attend SPH because we have a highly ranked program that is much more reasonably priced than other top schools of public health. That’s hard to top.

What has been your favorite class so far?

[Hana] There have been a lot of really great classes, but my favorite is probably the Health Care Systems in Public Health course taught by Professor Ezra Golberstein. A lot of people recommended that I take that course my first semester, and it really helped set the stage for the rest of my education. I learned a lot about public health and health care from that one class alone.

What are you most excited about in the SPH Strategic Plan for Antiracism?

[Hana] I have read the plan a few times, and what I really appreciate about it is the clear, action-oriented steps outlined to combat racism. Whether it’s including safe and fun spaces for BIPOC students, staff, and faculty, or increasing recruitment for students from marginalized communities—there’s intention behind the moves that SPH is making.

What is your vision for an antiracist school of public health?

[Hana] My vision for an antiracist school of public health is one that creates an environment where all students, staff, and faculty feel safe and energized to participate. I envision an inclusive space that helps foster every individual’s growth, and I am really excited about SPAR because I think it is a significant step towards achieving that vision.

What do you like about being in Minnesota?

[Hana] Definitely not the weather! What I really love are all of the great local restaurants. They do not get enough appreciation. Some of my favorites (this week) are Basil Cafe, Crescent Moon, and Fresh India.

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