Andrew Herrera believes we should all be doing something to make the world better.
Name: Andrew Herrera
Position: Graduate student, Public Health Leadership Program
Time at UNC Gillings: One year (I will graduate in August.)
What I do at the Gillings School (and why I love it):
I’m focused on epidemiology. I’m getting this master’s degree for my career, and the benefit of working full-time while I’m in school is that I can immediately apply what I learn to my work. At Curamericas Global, I’m part of a small team that already has expertise in health behavior and maternal and child health, so my enhanced understanding of epidemiology fills a gap. For my master’s practicum, I’ll be working in India to create a survey to help understand mental health awareness among vulnerable children.
What I like about being a student at UNC Gillings is the diversity of thought. The topics and perspectives that come up in class are fascinating. We have top-notch professors, too, and I find myself learning naturally from them without even realizing how many new things I’m picking up.
My work outside UNC Gillings: is as the executive director of Curamericas Global, which is a Triangle-based, long-standing, professional public health agency that has saved thousands of lives and reached millions of people for pennies on the dollar. (Yes, I want to promote our good work!) I’ve been an employee there since 2009 and moved into my current role in 2013. I am the son of a Columbian immigrant, and when I was ten years old I spent three months in Columbia with an aunt I’d never seen before. This gave me an itch to travel and understand other people who are different from me. Later, after returning home from a high school service trip to Honduras, I got this weird jolt when I spent $5 on a latte – something so silly – and felt hyper-aware that $5 could make a huge difference in the life of someone in a developing country. I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but that moment was when I decided: I don’t care how you do it, but we all should be doing something to make the world better.
Other than work and school, I like: playing ping pong. I aspire to play Forrest Gump-level ping pong, but even now I’d say I’m pretty good! It’s a hobby I picked up from my host brother while I was on a high-school exchange trip in China.
If I could wake up tomorrow with one new ability: I would like to be an expert gardener. I have plants in my office that always seem droopy, and I once tried to create a raised garden bed without much success. It would just be really nice to know I could nurture a plant!
My sources of inspiration are: all around me. I’m a sponge, so the people I work and study with blow my mind a lot, even when they don’t realize how much the things they say stick with me. I have immense respect for people who were born into comfortable lives but make themselves uncomfortable to help the world.