I am a first generation to college student pursuing my PhD in Global Public Health. I was a Ronald E. McNair Scholar at San Diego State University (SDSU) 10 years ago when I began college studying Psychology. It was through the McNair Program and the guidance I received through mentors at SDSU that I began to pursue my research interests related to underserved and marginalized populations such as the elderly and teens who become pregnant.
These interests led me to pursue my MS in Public Health at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) in Community Health Sciences with a specialization in Health Promotion and Education. While at UCLA, I was able to develop specific research interests in reproductive health, violence prevention, and health education. Through my masters program, I volunteered with organizations on campus with real-world applicaions. For example, I was a leader in the Coalition Against Human Trafficking where a team of health- and education-focused students served at a shelter to provide training and rehabilitation for survivors of sex and labor trafficking. I was also involved with Sex and Cookies and other endeavors related to sex education and consent. Most notably, I had the opportunity to work with my mentors on a project related to improving the identification of survivors of human trafficking and intimate partner violence in the hospital and clinic setting by providing training and screening interventions in community-based clinics in Los Angeles, California. This work has been published and presented, with more publications pending.
After graduating from UCLA, I had the opportunity to work at SDSU with underrepresented students through the NIH-funded Initiatives for Maximizing Student Development program as the program manager. There I worked with dozens of students, assisting them to pursue their dreams and mentor them. Simultaneously, I obtained a position at a local community college where I was able to teach a Careers in Public Health course to a mixed group of college and high school students. One of my biggest passions is leading the next generation of students to pursue their dreams and prepare them for success. I have found great purpose in these endeavors and hope to continue to be engaged with students throughout my public health and research career. Lastly, before beginning my PhD in Global Public Health through the Joint Doctoral Program from SDSU and the University of California, San Diego in Global Public Health, I spent two years as an advocate for San Diego's Sexual Assault Response Team where I was a first-responder to those who had been assaulted. This experience most convinced me to go back to school: more work must be done in the field of violence prevention, advocacy, and policy work - especially among vulnerable populations. I am currently applying for grants alongside my mentor to create a study to best understand how undocumented women experience violence in the context of sexual assault and intimate partner violence, their barriers to receiving mental and social health care services, and how to best assist them. I also hope to investigate sexual assault on college campuses in the US and abroad, and how policy, education and community engagement can effect outcomes.
Because I am a first year PhD student, I do not have a specific project yet. My mentor, Dr. Jennifer Wagman, and I are submitting grants to conduct qualitative research approaches to: (a) Assess barriers to seeking IPV services by undocumented women; (b) Assess factors that would facilitate their help-seeking behaviors; (c) Assess what would help immigrant IPV survivors build trust and feel protected and safe to disclose their experiences to professionals able to provide counseling, healthcare, legal services, etc.; (d) Seek recommendations for improving outreach to this population; and (e) Generate ideas for designing a culturally appropriate and acceptable intervention framework for providing outreach to immigrant women in need of IPV services.
We are also working on projects related to obtaining prevalence of sexual assault among college campuses in the UC-system and elsewhere in the world, intervention strategies, and education programs that can help reduce disparities and eliminate violence.