"..do not equate your worth with your grades. You are more than your grades."
Ms. Drakes attend SHPEP in 2019 at the University of Iowa. She recently completed a master's degree in Public Healthcare Systems.
What path did you take when you first started college?
The major for my undergraduate studies was Health and Human Services accompanied by minor degrees in Social Justice Theory and International Studies that incorporated health.
What led to your interest in a health profession?
My personal experience in the US healthcare system coupled with my academic areas of focus as a natural scientist scholar, propelled me to funnel my scientific and thought-processed modus operandi to understand and prepare for public health trends and occurrences to impact communities facing health disparities.
Who are what inspired you?
The answer to who or what has inspired me is lofty but in general, my humble beginnings and the decimation of fragile communities in Latin America by health inequities inspired me to be an informed and community-based health agent of change.
What obstacles did you overcome in your educational or career journey?
Financial and cultural barriers plagued my journey as well as discrimination. Especially during the pandemic, the lack of affordable housing close to my university’s campus led to long days and nights of commuting via public subways. During this, I learned the importance of overcoming these barriers through hard work and sacrifice along with empathy and much reflection to ensure the completion of both my undergraduate and graduate studies.
What are some of your recent milestones?
My recent milestones include my internship in a non-profit organization geared at tackling the social determinants of health to assist mental and drug abuse survivors secure basic needs to ensure their adherence to health treatment and regimen. Secondly, my research work in adolescent health in Ecuador received the award and prize for graduate-level research at my university and it was a rewarding moment as my research was a labor of love especially as it was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Also, graduating with top honors and being a member of my university’s most prestigious society: The President’s Society were also important junctures.
What makes your story unique?
Uniqueness for me is in my lived experience as a foreign-born and global public health practitioner and the experience of living in Latin America and Europe. These experiences have thought me the importance of resilience, tenacity, and willpower to be culturally sensitive and competent.
What surprised you the most about graduate/health professional school?
Graduate school was surprisingly geared towards a more individualized learning experience when it came to content. This was a shift as it required more one-on-one time with professors to ensure mastery.
Also, on a lighter note, the offering of courses exclusively in the evening into the night was a point of adjustment for me.
How did SHPEP influence you?
SHPEP gave me the tools that influence and shape my approach to life and learning. Whether it is the financial literacy and planning workbook that I reference or the exposure to different tracks, SHPEP pushed me to widen my perspectives and cement my passion for public health.
Do you remember your first day of graduate studies? What memory stands out the most?
Yes, my first day of graduate studies is still clear to me.
My professor’s passion for public health and call for me to develop my “subject matter experience” propelled me to interact with public health theory and practice on a deeper level to ensure my commitment to the field.
What has been your favorite part of the process? The most difficult?
My favorite part was the plethora of public health career events and symposia that I participated in. It provided opportunities to meet public health leaders and other public health advocates who were able to provide great insight into the variety of public health roles.
The most difficult apart from my late and lengthy public subway commuting would have to be my course load of 4 graduate classes that I had as my graduation timeline had to meet my financial ability to fund my education and so I would not recommend more than 3 classes unless necessary.
Did you have experiences or mentors that prepared you for a career as a health professional?
My experiences and mentors were a product of my time at SHPEP. Particularly, one of my mentors spoke at a panel discussion during SHPEP and we have stayed in contact ever since. I have benefited from their advice which is ensuring my longevity in my field and avoiding burnout.
What is the best career advice you have received?
Dr. Denise Martinez from my experience at SHPEP-University of Iowa taught me the importance of relationship building. Her advice goes like this: “Half of life is who you know, and the other half is who likes you”. I later came across the application of this in one of my favorite books that speak on the importance of relationships in career building where people feel comfortable around you.
Additionally, remember that you do not have to wait to have life experience because while you are pursuing your studies life is going on and it would be a loss to let it go by without enjoying the time you will not get back.
What advice do you have for students pursuing a health professional career?
I would advise students to not limit themselves or their abilities and work towards their goals. Further, do not equate your worth with your grades. You are more than your grades.
On that same note, do not compare your grades or progress with others. You are on your own path/trajectory and do not mistake busyness for handling business. Lastly, like the purpose of my enterprise HLH, ensure that your study routine is healthy with breaks and seek a healthy study-life balance.