Q&A: New CPH undergrads

By Debra Venzke

Published on December 23, 2016

Leighton HillLeighton Hill
Minneapolis, Minn.
B.S. in Public Health

 

Are you involved in any clubs or organizations?
I’m exploring a variety of different organizations that are really interesting to me and plan to join a health advocacy organization and play badminton for fun.

Why did you choose public health as your major?
I chose public health as my major because it is essential in our lives, and it is a diverse and exciting field. I’ve always been interested in studying an area related to health, and I knew I wanted to become involved in public health once I learned more about its focus on preventing health issues. With an education in public health, there are so many opportunities to help communities and society. It is constantly evolving, and the work done here makes a significant difference in our world.

What about the University of Iowa made you decide to come here?
The University of Iowa is a Big Ten school with all the resources and benefits of a large university, yet it still has the feeling of a smaller, more personal school. I feel very fortunate to be one of the first students in the College of Public Health undergraduate program. The campus felt very welcoming when I toured, and now as a student I have made so many wonderful connections and feel like I truly belong here.

What’s your favorite thing about campus or the university?
The best part of the university is the people. Everyone I’ve met here has been so friendly, motivated, and hard-working. There’s a strong sense of pride in being a Hawkeye, and I love the excitement and energy around campus.

What’s been your best experience in school so far?
The football games are awesome! It’s really fun to cheer with my friends and watch the Hawkeyes score a touchdown.

What are your professional plans, goals, and aspirations?
I’m planning to study epidemiology and research how to prevent the spread of certain diseases and understand the outbreaks that caused them. I’m also studying Spanish, and I would like to travel abroad to learn how other countries address their public health issues.

Anything else you’d like to add?
I’m really excited about this new program, and I’m proud to be a Hawkeye!

 

Elliot Smith Elliot Smith
West Des Moines, Iowa
B.A. in Public Health

 

Are you involved in any clubs or organizations?
I’m a member of oSTEM, a group for LGBT STEM majors and their allies. Additionally, I’m a member of Trans Alliance and am helping to organize IC Red Week. I’m also a pledge for the multicultural fraternity Delta Lambda Phi.

Why did you choose public health as your major?
I’ve always known that my ultimate goal was to make the world a kinder, safer, and better place. This was the reason I became dedicated to social justice principles. Ultimately, it was also the reason why I chose public health as my major. Public health offers a way to discover the sources of difficulty in peoples’ lives and to work to amend them. I’m particularly interested in addressing the ways in which health issues affect different communities with different levels of severity. I believe sincerely that a society with fully equitable public health would also have complete social justice; the two go hand-in-hand.

What about the University of Iowa made you decide to come here?
The new undergraduate public health program drew me to the school. The facilities for public health students are beautiful, the professors are experienced, and the students have a true sense of community as the first class of undergraduate public health majors.

What’s been your best experience in school so far?
Although I have 19 credit hours this semester, I always enjoy my studies because I’m passionate about my classes—and so are my classmates and professors. In particular, I’ve been thrilled with all of my public health classes. I’ve written an essay about social justice and community health in a hypothetical zombie apocalypse; I’ve reflected on how gentrification is a public health issue; I’ve attended a lecture on parallels between the Zika virus and health of people in ancient civilizations.

What are your professional plans, goals, and aspirations?
I hope to pursue a master’s degree in public health. I’m also considering seeking an MFA, because I love to write. After graduate school, I’d like to work as a community health worker within marginalized communities. As someone who is transgender, the health of the LGBT community is an area I understand on a personal level. Therefore, my ideal job would involve working on issues that affect that community, either domestically or abroad. Someday, I’d like to work with the national government, focusing on global or LGBT health.

Anything else you’d like to add?
I hope to be proof to the world that transgender people are more than tragic statistics. It is a fact that transgender people—particularly transgender women of color—face higher rates of murder, sexual assault, job discrimination, and homelessness than their cisgender counterparts. This is a public health issue. But with the right support, we can be anything we dream of being. In my future, I hope to work towards providing that support to all people in all communities.

Photos by John Choate

This story originally appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of InSight.