"Both of my parents are Ethiopian immigrants; my dad works in cardiovascular research, and my mother is a pharmacist, so I grew up in a household where medicine and science were valued.
There was also a strong emphasis on healthy eating and food, and in college, I decided to pursue nutritional science as a major.
Nutrition itself is really about the prevention of disease. But my undergraduate degree on its own was very textbook-heavy — very theoretical. We weren’t talking about the social determinants of health: the barriers that make it hard for people to eat well. At some point I realized I’d need more education to really get a handle on how to approach the systemic issues that I was thinking about in my nutrition classes, but which were never addressed in the courses or texts. While I was in college, I ran an evaluation project for a grant-funded, youth-run community garden, and it was eye-opening: there are so many benefits to community gardening, but there were also bigger issues limiting the youths’ success. For example, the nearest water source was two blocks away, so these kids would have to carry water that distance to their patch of land. It was just frustrating to see how even though they were doing a great job growing their own food, they were up against large, systemic barriers.
I’m always thinking about systems as a whole. A lot of my desires to go into public health have come from wanting to improve existing organizations. I started last year in the Public Health Administration & Policy MPH track, but after a lot of soul-searching and conversations with the faculty and program coordinators, I’m transferring to the Master in Healthcare Administration (MHA) program. It’s been quite a journey. I want the business perspective that comes with an MHA, but I also want the background in public health training and a firm grounding in basic public health concepts.”