Kathy Reyes

What is your favorite public health experience and why?

“In 2018, I attended the American Public Health Association annual conference. I presented a community assessment project examining local impacts of an anti-immigrant political climate. This was a favorite experience of mine because it cemented a passion for public health and inspired me to see a future for myself in the field.”

What is your proudest public health moment and why?

“As a result of the George Floyd protests in the summer of 2020, a community bail fund in the amount of nearly $200,000 was generated in my local community. However, the majority of the funds went unspent after several months when the protests began to die down. I worked with a small group of community members to transform the fund into a Solidarity Fund for individuals and families impacted by the criminal justice system. Today, we have redistributed funds to hundreds of people impacted by structural racism and state violence, key drivers of public health inequities. This is my proudest moment in public health because the experience demonstrated that people who are directly impacted by injustice already have the solutions to our most pressing problems.”

What has been your most challenging public health experience and why?

“This past year, I worked in COVID-19 response at the county level. It was incredibly challenging to see the disproportionate impacts of the pandemic. As a Latina, it was heart-wrenching to watch my community and other communities of color bear the burden of disease because of the way our society is set up. It became clear early on in the pandemic that communities of color and low-income communities would be disproportionately exposed to COVID due to occupation and housing. It has become clear that public health has a long way to go to address health disparities, let alone health inequity. However, I believe the pandemic has pushed many of us in public health to deepen our analysis of the structural drivers and the potential for public health to contribute to building a more just society.”

Why do you care about public health?

“I care about public health because I believe that public health can be a major contributor to the transformative change our society desperately needs.”

What is your public health story?

“As a formerly incarcerated young person, I experienced criminalization at the hands of the education and social systems. As I have studied and learned about public health, I have come to understand the public health connections to my personal experiences. Today, I recognize the underlying, root causes of poor health outcomes among people and communities who have been impacted by the criminal injustice system and the systems that enable it.”

What public health advice would you like to give?

“A mentor recently cautioned me about “careerism” in public health and other fields underpinned by social justice. However, our goal in public health should be to “work our way out of a job” because our work ends when we address public health problems. I think this is important for folks to consider as they enter the field.”

Instagram: @defundthepolice5

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