UTHealth Houston School of Public Health strategically meets its students' academic needs and interests, positioning them to continue their commitment to improving communities’ healthy living.
Savannah Bernal, a Master of Public Health student, chose to attend the School of Public Health because it allows students the flexibility to complete interdisciplinary coursework relevant to their academic and professional interests.
Bernal’s interest in public health was ignited as an undergraduate student studying biology with a pre-med focus. A course in health disparities enlightened Bernal about the widespread influence public health has on the population. Inspired by this information, she changed her major to public health with a specific focus on epidemiology and disease control.
“I realized that public health was the field where I could make the most impact,” says Bernal.
Once changing gears from medicine to public health, Bernal began working in various community health and advocacy programs. She worked for the non-profit Empower House, formerly Martinez Street Women’s Center in San Antonio, organizing breast health events and educating parents on new programs using the Triple P: Positive Parenting Program, which teaches supportive parenting methods. In addition, Bernal assisted with research at community hubs and multipurpose centers, providing a range of cost-effective services to local communities.
Armed with experience serving her community, Bernal decided to continue her studies at UTHealth Houston School of Public Health based on the caliber of the program and the school’s many resources. “The program allowed me to select cross-disciplinary coursework relevant to my interests, the faculty members are experts in their respective fields with strong reputations for research and advocacy, and the school’s commitment to addressing health disparities and promoting social justice aligns with my values,” she says.
Bernal notes a significant benefit to her studies is her mentorship with Alejandra Fernandez, PhD, assistant professor from the Department of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences, who Bernal met while serving as a graduate research assistant and teaching assistant. “Having a mentor who is a Hispanic woman in academia has been particularly meaningful to me, as I can relate to her experiences as a minority in this field,” says Bernal.
Bernal’s foremost advice to students continuing their higher education studies is to prioritize time management and to set boundaries where needed. Her ultimate goal is to obtain a PhD in public health, working on policy changes that promote health equity to reduce disparities in underserved communities.