Spring ‘24 Practicum Reflections: Shay Olaifa

Shay Olaifa in front of wooden door.

Shay Olaifa, a sophomore at Rice University, is majoring in political science with a minor in politics, law, and social thought. She discovered UTHealth Houston School of Public Health Center for Health Equity (CHE) through the inaugural Community Health Practicum hosted by Rice University School of Social Sciences Frances Anne Moody-Dahlberg Gateway Program. The CHE’s vision of a world populated by healthy people across flourishing communities resonated with her. Olaifa states, “Growing up, I saw firsthand how health disparities in my community, whether from environmental factors like living in cancer clusters, lack of access to quality healthcare, systemic racism, or limited availability of affordable, nutritious foods, impacted our ability to live healthy lives. This drive fueled my deep interest in public health.”  Olaifa wants to contribute to public health in her community while attending Rice University before pursuing law school with a focus on malpractice.

During her time at the CHE, Olaifa worked on several projects. She cataloged and themed monthly networking sessions hosted by the Health Equity Collective, an infrastructure initiative of the CHE which works to improve care coordination between healthcare and social services in the Greater Houston region. Olaifa also presented a human-centered project for a Produce Prescription study for pregnant mothers in collaboration with Harris Health System. Her project presented two potential participants and explained their backgrounds, goals, and concerns about participating in the study. The project challenged team members to conceptualize how the program could address their needs. Olaifa developed a resource packet for mothers exiting the study to ensure they knew about other helpful opportunities post-pregnancy. She additionally conducted a literature review on the effects of structural racism on maternal mortality.

Olaifa describes her practicum at the CHE as positive where she was able to build meaningful connections between public health and policy. While working remotely, Olaifa felt like an integral part of the team in a welcoming environment where their ideas were valued and appreciated.

Her advice to students looking for practicum opportunities is to remember that the CHE is passionate about serving the community according to their needs.

The Health Equity Collective hosts monthly virtual networking sessions related to various themes, projects, and initiatives that address non-medical drivers of health at the local, state, and national levels. 

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