Q&A with Marissa Velarde, PhD student in Maternal and Child Health & FHI 360 Fellow
We at Research, Innovation and Global Solutions, interviewed Marissa Velarde about her work as an FHI 360 Fellow, her PhD program in Maternal and Child Health, her professional background before Gillings, and why she chose Gillings.
What was your background before enrolling in the MCH doctoral program at Gillings?
I have worked in the field of sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice for over a decade (I’m old). Prior to enrolling in Gillings, I had many jobs. I worked at a large foundation in NYC, provided research support for a study on international feminist organizing for self-managed abortion, and taught yoga in Brooklyn. I also served as on the Board of Directors for the New York Abortion Access Fund. I guess I like to keep busy!
Will you tell us more about your work as an FHI 360 Fellow?
I am working in the Program Development and Innovation department at FHI 360 and have a role in many activities. Over the summer, I collaborated with colleagues in analyzing qualitative data for a study on contraception continuation and discontinuation in South Africa and Zambia, and we are currently preparing manuscripts for our findings. I have also contributed to the CTI Exchange, a resource on contraceptive research, development, and introduction by FHI. To celebrate World Contraception Day, we released a history of contraceptive innovation, an interactive timeline that traces the long history of fertility management.
What is your favorite part of working with your team within FHI 360?
Due to the pandemic, I have not been able to meet most of colleagues at FHI 360 in person. However, my team has been very welcoming and FHI does their best to keep everyone engaged virtually. While I hope to get to know my team better in the coming months, my favorite part is everyone’s dedication and enthusiasm to advancing the health, well-being, and human rights of individuals globally.
What does “global health” mean to you?
I like this question a lot, but it’s a tough one. My idea of global health is constantly shifting and growing. Currently, global health to me is about recognizing that we are living in an increasingly transnational context and local issues can and have impacted the globe, as evidenced by the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, it is critical that we collaborate globally to ensure the health and well-being of everyone.
What drew you to the Gillings School of Global Public Health?
I applied to Gillings because I had met previous students that spoke highly of the doctoral program. I appreciated that the school does work locally and globally and in concert, rather than segregating them and placing them in silos. Upon acceptance, I visited the campus and was further convinced by the MCH Faculty’s commitment to its students.
What is your dream job?
I love research and will be happy to do that for a long time. It is my goal to continue conducting mixed-methods research that advances reproductive justice globally, and hopefully I will lead some innovative studies, too. Ideally, I will be able to teach a few courses because I also enjoy discussing topics I’m passionate about and helping others learn and develop their passions.
What’s the most interesting fact you know?
I am full of useless information! The one on the top of my head right now is that avocados exist in such abundance because pre-historic sloths pooped out avocado pits as they traveled around the land. You’re welcome!