What is your favorite public health experience and why?

“My favorite public health experience has been working with Roots Community Health Center in the South Bay with the COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites. I enjoyed the opportunity to help my community and I even got a chance to practice my Spanish from time to time!”

What is your proudest public health moment and why?

“My proudest moment has been volunteering at the Thanksgiving Turkey Drive in Oakland. That was one of my first interactions with public health organizations like Stanford Health and other black historic organizations such as the Divine Nine Greek organizations. I watched all kinds of demographics come together in a safe and necessary way for community members who needed some love during the holiday season. I participated as a volunteer in 2020 which was also my first holiday season away from home. I learned why community was even more important now more than ever during this pandemic.”

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

“The most challenging experience has been balancing studying epidemiology and health policy and working within the field of public health while trying to survive a pandemic. It felt like no matter where I turned I was always surrounded by COVID updates and information. I’m grateful for the friends and coworkers that I could lean on during this time!”

Why do you care about public health?

“Not only is public health my passion, I realized that it’s the best way for me to contribute to the healing of my community. I couldn’t decide which issue to solve first as a kid: food insecurity, lack of affordable medications, accessible housing, etc. and I was so frustrated! When public health found me I saw an opening to dive head first into the issues that I care about the most but from this unique perspective. The more I learned why these issues are connected to a population’s health, the more I wanted to get involved on a deeper level. I now realize I can’t solve everything but to know that there is a field where it’s almost possible is pretty amazing!”

What is your public health story?

“I started off in state and local politics and I decided to do an internship focusing on health policy. The policy side of this position drew me in but one random project on Lyme disease opened up a Pandora’s box for me! That project turned into my capstone for undergrad and then turned into the basis for my personal statement into my MPH application. Now I study public health at the University of California, Berkeley and I’m a health navigator at Roots Community Health Center in San Jose. I am also on the executive board with Black Advocates in Health Equity and actively expanding my network around the South Bay in Santa Clara County and within Oakland.”

What public health advice would you like to give?

“This is a big field, so take your time exploring it! Living in the Bay Area has exposed me to more ways I can explore this field which is both exciting and overwhelming. It’s okay if your interests change within public health because 9 times out of 10 someone somewhere is already working on that area which can make it easier for you to jump right in. I started with Lyme disease but now I’m working with diabetes and cognitive health programs which are just as important!”

Anything else you’d like to share?

“Thanks for this opportunity to share my story! I’m not from the Bay Area (originally from Virginia), so I’m happy to connect with anyone in the field out here!”

Instagram: @erikaa_moniquee

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