Five Questions with Daijah Street Davis
Daijah Street Davis found adventure in North Carolina.
Name: Daijah Street Davis
Position: Graduate student, Department of Maternal and Child Health
Time at UNC Gillings: One year
What I do at the Gillings School (and why I love it): I’m getting a Master of Public Health degree so I can help make the lives of mothers and babies better. Children are our future and, for them to reach their full potential, mothers need more support! During the school year, I work as a graduate research assistant at MEASURE Evaluation, supporting their capacity-building team. I see the need for capacity building everywhere now – you can’t expect people to do better without better tools.
One thing I love about studying at the Gillings School is taking what I learn in class and passing it along to my friends and family. So many health problems stem from a lack of knowledge. Until I graduate and can start making change at a systems level, I’m happy to inform the people I love!
Before coming to UNC Gillings: I taught seventh-grade science in Charlotte through Teach for America. It was a challenging and eye-opening experience. It gave me a better understanding of the inequities that exist on a day-to-day basis in our school system and impact our children. That experience actually drove me to the field of public health because I realized that, as much as I wanted to help the kids in my class, I could be more effective if I improved whole systems. I will say, my students taught me all about being mentally and emotionally flexible… and they taught me to laugh more.
What comes next: isn’t set in stone. I don’t have a specific job in mind, but I know I want to do something that amplifies the voices of people in need and offers those people information or services that can improve their lives. Some of the issues I care most about are paid parental leave, reproductive justice, and women’s right and ability to breastfeed. Essentially, I want to support people in being aware of and empowered to do what’s best for them.
I plan to work in the United States – ideally, my husband and I will stay in the Triangle. Although I intend to work domestically, I loved learning about interventions in Africa through MEASURE Evaluation. Last school year, I spent time writing a report that compared responses to the Ebola virus in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The intervention, which was meant to be the same in each country, had the goal of building capacity in health information systems. The interesting thing was that the intervention played out very differently in each setting – I learned that we always have to take individual circumstances into consideration in public health work. Nothing cookie-cutter will truly work.
A fictional character I identify with: would have to be Issa Rae’s character from the HBO show “Insecure.” Issa Rae is a black woman who started out doing YouTube shows like “Awkward Black Girl.” All her characters do a great job of representing real, strong, but imperfect women of color and the things they come up against in their lives.
One of the biggest adventures I’ve had: was moving from Michigan to North Carolina with everything I owned in the back of my Ford Focus. After graduating from college, I was so broke I was participating in psychology surveys for money. I needed to explore something new, and that move was the first time I jumped into something with both feet. I mean, I came here and moved in with a roommate I’d only met one time! The three years since then have been a wonderful adventure – I think that move was the beginning of the rest of my life.