Growing up, based on aspirations my family had for my future, and individuals who I looked up to as role models, I internalized the idea that I would work towards becoming a doctor and be pre-med in college. That was true up until my senior fall in high school, as I was applying to colleges and realized that I couldn’t see myself continuing to take lab sciences and no longer felt a fervent desire to pursue medicine. Through my social science classes and extracurricular involvement, I understood that I was intrigued by social complexes and issues of intersectionality, and was frustrated by the historical and present-day inequities in many spheres of life. I wanted to continue pursuing a field of study that allowed me to question, theorize, research, and learn about systems and social factors. With an open mind, I signed up for a Healthcare in America (CH 2) class my fall semester of freshman year at Tufts, and that was the steppingstone that led me to continue studying Community Health.
CH 2, one of the introductory courses in our Community Health department, was a very thought-provoking and informative class for me. I remember my professor starting out our first lecture by prefacing that by the end of the semester we will leave being able to discern the workings of the US health care system from financing to diversity of health care institutions, and have our minds opened in some way. I didn’t know then how much that would hold true for me, but it did expand my perspective immensely and empower me with so much information. Talking about issues like access to the health care system, social influencers of health that make certain sub-populations prone to higher morbidity and mortality, inequities in insurance coverage, while problematic in nature, was interesting to me and served a glimpse of what Community Health studies look like. I found that working to fulfill my academic goals felt easier because of the fact that I genuinely enjoyed much of the material I was engaging with and looked forward to attending class. That for me, was exciting, because I finally found a field of study that could put a name to my interests, Community Health (used interchangeably with public health).
Public health work is everywhere around us and is beautiful in its versatility, multifaceted-ness, and embodiment of equity and social impact-driven work. It takes a population-level approach to health-related issues, asking questions like “Why are some people healthy and others not?” and aims to tackle the root causes of such issues. It has informed the seatbelts we wear for safety and spearheaded efforts to alleviate disparities in access to care and affordability through community health center models. While I am nowhere near a public health professional or seasoned college student yet, I am grateful to have embarked on an exciting academic journey. I remain uncertain on what this means I will do in the future, but just as I did when I enrolled in that class, I am planning on keeping an open mind and seeing where it takes me.