MS Student Presents at APHA

Hilleary Nguyen, student in the Master of Science in Community Health & Social Justice program and Health Studies alum, presented at the American Public Health Association conference in November. Hilleary took the time to answer a few questions for us.

How did you end up presenting at APHA? Please tell me about your presentation. 

I got the opportunity to present at APHA due to my work with Youth in Action (YIA) for Health Equity at Touro University California. My presentation was about our YIA  project, with the combination of utilizing the youth participatory action research (YPAR) approach. This is an effective way to engage youth and increase interest in public health careers with the long-term goal of diversifying the public health workforce. 

How did you choose the Health Studies major?  Did the Health Studies major help to prepare you for your next steps in your education/career?

I chose Health Studies because I was interested in how social context and our surroundings have an effect on our overall health outcomes. I wanted to understand and know how to help make my community a better and healthier place. Health studies have absolutely prepared me for the next steps of my life. It opened my eyes to the “behind the scenes” of health rather than just the clinical setting. If it wasn’t for the introduction to public health during the Health Studies program, my next step would have looked very different. 

What made you decide to pursue the MS in Community Health & Social Justice?

Upon studying Health Studies during undergrad, I realized that we still have a lot of health and social disparity to close and one thing for sure was that I want to be that person to create change. I was looking for a graduate program where there was an emphasis on health, policy, and advocacy because, after all, that’s where the change lies. 

What are your plans after you complete the MS in Community Health & Social Justice?

I’m still quite unsure of my plans for post-graduation but one thing for sure is I want to work in an environment where everyone shares the same common goal of ensuring and improving the health of our community. Whether that may be working for the health department or an NGO, it doesn’t matter to me as long as it aligns with protecting our community. 

Is there anything else you would like to share with our audience?

Never cease to miss an opportunity. If your goal seems out of reach, don’t worry, and just go for it because the worst thing that you can do to yourself is to wonder if you could have achieved it.  APHA for me felt like a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I’m very grateful. When I applied for the MSCHSJ program, I felt subpar and thought about not wasting my time to apply, but I’m very happy and thankful that I did as this will be a chapter of my life that I’ll never forget. I know it’s cliche but really, don’t just reach for the stars but the entire galaxy.