Q&A with Dhara Patel, MPH Candidate in the EQUITY concentration
We at Research, Innovation and Global Solutions, interviewed Dhara Patel about her professional experience before Gillings, her MPH practicum with the Collaborative for Maternal and Infant Health (CMIH) at UNC’s School of Medicine, her work with equity at Gillings, and why she chose Gillings.
What was your background before enrolling in the MPH program?
Before enrolling at Gillings, I attended the University of Florida where I got my BA in Spanish and a BS in Biology. My time at UF really inspired my desire to pursue an MPH because I figured that the intersection between my two biggest passions, social justice and medicine, was public health. Being a care coordinator for their Mobile Outreach Clinic and being a facilitator for their social justice and identity education retreats only solidified that desire for a career in public health for me because of the importance of systemic change. I had some housing and startup jobs between my degrees, however!
Can you tell us about your MPH practicum?
I had the privilege of doing my practicum with the Collaborative for Maternal and Infant Health (CMIH) at UNC’s School of Medicine, where I still work today! I coordinated a webinar series and a literature review for the team. While I have always loved reproductive health, my interest in preconception health and the gaps in seeking this form of care for women with chronic conditions was particularly inspired by my time with CMIH. I have learned so much and applied many skills with this team and so I’m very grateful to have had this opportunity!
Will you tell us about your work with equity at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health?
I am very fortunate to be surrounded by a cohort of movers and shakers who really inspire me to not only learn about equity, but to live it. My peers really push me to speak up and offer solutions when I see places where we as institution can be more equitable. I also view my role as a TA as an advocacy role partially because TAs are in a unique positionality to be a liaison between students and faculty. I hope that the efforts students have made during my time here will persist and only grow.
Can you tell us about your role as a Teaching Assistant and Graduate Research Assistant?
Currently, I am both an MPH Core TA and a Graduate Research Assistant (GRA) for CMIH. I love my TA role because my students are the best!! I’m so happy I am able to work with the same teams from last semester and see their projects and skills grow. As a GRA for CMIH I provide support wherever I am able to, whether that is with organization, stakeholder outreach, or other tasks. The projects I assist with use an equity lens for preconception care for women with chronic conditions, and some potential future directions to bridge gaps in this area. My time and the research team I work with at CMIH have really encouraged me to seek a career in women’s health research.
What does “global health” mean to you?
Global health to me means ensuring that we are centering decolonization and equity in how we talk about and practice public health. Often in traditional global health, Western, White, Christian missionary values have informed how public health has been spread globally. I hope that in the future we move further away from these strategies and advocate for cultural autonomy in determining what “healthy” means across the world.
What drew you to the Gillings School of Global Public Health?
Besides the rank and value, Gillings was the one of the only schools to offer a robust health equity concentration. I have been really impressed with the community-driven research that happens from many Gillings researchers. Also, I truly believe in the value of public goods and services, and it only felt aligned with my values to go to a public school to study public health.
What is your dream job?
My cohortmates always start the answer to this question with “I don’t dream of labor, but…” and I hate to do the same, however… I don’t dream of labor, but my ultimate career goal is to develop and inform equity-centered, liberation-focused curriculum for public health and healthcare education programs. While I move towards my goal, I hope to do community-driven research in women’s health.
What kind of humor do you enjoy?
Great question, I enjoy both the kind of humor that is dumb and ironic, and also humor that pokes fun at the absurdity of the state of the world. I call this “social justice humor,” but I don’t know if that’s a real type of humor. Helps to make the weight of these issues a little easier to handle.