BY Nubia Reyna | THE RIDER
This summer, UTRGV seniors Jessica Gonzalez and Limairy Rodriguez attended the Future Public Health Leaders Program (FPHLP) at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.
The 10-week residential program encourages underrepresented college students to consider careers in public health. FPHLP funders include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Minority Health and Health Equity (OMHHE).
Gonzalez, a rehabilitation services major, said that she is grateful for this opportunity.
“It was a really good experience because we were not seen as interns, we were seen as part of the staff,” Gonzalez said. “We worked with the population; we talked about obesity and their perception of health.”
Gonzalez’s said her favorite memory is when they did community service in Adrian, Mich.
“I enjoy helping people,” said Gonzalez, who encourages students to leave their comfort zone and consider careers in public health. “Don’t be afraid to try new things. It is definitely worth it.”
She said public health is a broad field where there is something for everyone.
Among the things Gonzalez enjoyed about the program was the diversity of students.
“I met people from Hawaii, California, people who were from Africa … or from Samoa,” she said. “I learned about their cultures. … It is amazing to be able to have connections in different places now.”
Although Gonzalez was happy about not having to wake up at 6:30 a.m. every morning anymore, the last day was a bittersweet.
“I was already used to [living] over there,” she said. “Saying our goodbye was a bittersweet moment. … I really enjoyed it, I learned a lot.”
After graduating, Gonzalez plans on getting her master’s and focusing on mental health.
“I want to work at a rehab clinic or even a retirement home for veterans,” she said.
Rodriguez, a biomedical sciences major, also enjoyed her internship in Ann Arbor, Mich.
“It was an amazing experience” she said. “It was absolutely rewarding for me as a person.”
Thanks to the internship, Rodriguez was able to find her real passion and grow as a person. “My passion does lie within public health.”
Rodriguez learned the real meaning of public health.
“When you think of public health you think health, physical, vaccines, but public health is way more than just that,” she said. “There are so many things to consider when you are thinking about a person’s overall health. … among all the things that affect a person’s health, violence is an important one.”
The 40 interns were paired and placed in a specific field, except for Rodriguez.
“I was by myself. … My deal was to create an action plan for them to know where to start the job,” she said. “It was a lot of work.”
Rodriguez attended meetings with the police department in which she was asked to give an opinion.
“I felt like I was part of the team,” she said.
Asked about her favorite memory of the internship, Rodriguez replied it was hard to choose one.
“There were a lot of favorite memories of mine,” she said. “But I would definitely say, creating a friendship with another person with a different cultural background.”
Rodriguez encourages fellow students to be willing to explore the unknown side of them and go far with their dreams.
“You can do so much more than just work every day and get a lot money,” she said. “You can go so far. We all have the capacity.”
Even though 10 weeks may seem a long time for most of us, Rodriguez was not happy that the internship was coming to an end. “I wanted it to continue, I wanted it to last longer.”
For more information about the internship, visit http://fphlp.sph.umich.edu.