Ms. Croker-Benn, a 2014 program participant at Columbia University. She graduated from Duke University with a degree in Global Health & Cultural Anthropology in 2018. Today, Ms. Croker-Benn a 1st-year graduate student at Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.

What led to your interest in a health profession?

My history highlighted issues in women’s healthcare. I saw a need to listen to women’s health concerns and became aware of issues of medical discrimination. While working as an OB/GYN medical scribe recently, I saw problems that contributed to maternal morbidity and mortality, including lacking patient literacy and chronic diseases like obesity and diabetes. My experiences influenced my goal to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity, enhance women’s health, and increase health literacy in Black and Brown communities. Ultimately, I want to uplift others and promote a happy and healthy quality of life. I am excited to have my first classes at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University Fall 2020.

Who or what inspired you?

My pediatrician sparked my journey into healthcare at a young age; she was always kind and compassionate yet effective. She was an opera singer who later became a pediatrician. Because of her background, my pediatrician was able to story-tell and relate to patients in ways many other doctors could not. She not only healed children’s physical ailment but also comforted them to address emotional and mental health as well. My experience with my pediatrician started my desire to augment health literacy.

What makes your story unique?

As a first-generation American of Guyanese heritage, it was particularly challenging to navigate my journey into adulthood/womanhood and issues regarding health growing up. Cultural differences hindered my ability to communicate health concerns and take full agency of my body and health. Now, thanks to my education and experiences, I managed to get my family to engage in healthier eating practices and exercise. This may seem like a small step but was a further assurance to continue to increase health literacy for minority populations and those displaced in the U.S. I wish to combine what is conventionally thought of as biomedicine or western medicine with herbal and cultural remedies. I believe that with the use of various practices and a better understanding of how culture affects healthcare access and quality, health outcomes, and health behaviors, health can be more productive and sustainable.

How did SHPEP influence you?

My involvement in SMDEP, now SHPEP, furthered my interests and demonstrated how various compounding factors could impact medicine and health outcomes. The program encouraged me to continue my health career pursuits in ways I felt other institutions have not. Moreover, interacting with diverse students who were all seeking careers in health served as a vital supportive measure. I am still friends with some people from the program today. SMDEP solidified my goals to use health as a force for social justice and fight against health inequities.

Health is so expansive and interdisciplinary; there are so many ways to get involved and combine interests, so be open-minded. Do not be discouraged if it appears no one is engaging in the same material as you; there are many areas of innovation. The options are limitless. Also, it is necessary to maintain cultural competency and ethics with any health-related work. I would encourage students to surround themselves with supportive individuals and people who continue to inspire. It would be helpful to find a supportive mentor that will advocate with you during this journey. Lastly, be continuously self-reflective, study your reasoning for interests in health. Keep learning!

Posted: August 2020