Q&A with Paulina Nichols, MPH candidate in Global Health
We at Research, Innovation and Global Solutions, interviewed Paulina Nichols about her professional background before Gillings, her work as a research assistant with the Instituto de Efectividad Clínica y Sanitaria in Argentina, her role as a Young Professionals Board Member with Curamericas Global, and why she chose Gillings.
What was your background before enrolling in the MPH program?
Before Gillings, I received my bachelor’s in Nutrition with a concentration in Nutrition Science from the California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (in central California!). Through my undergraduate studies, I knew I wanted to work in healthcare but did not know what that would look like. During my third year, I studied abroad in Ghana and volunteered at the West Africa AIDS Foundation (WAAF). Volunteering at WAAF was my first experience in public health, and I loved it! I was able to witness the success of their mobile health units and learn about the work they did at their on-site HIV clinic. It was incredible to see WAAF help so many people in the community and at that point, I knew this was the profession for me.
Can you tell us about your as a Research Assistant for the Instituto de Efectividad Clínica y Sanitaria?
The Instituto de Efectividad Clínica y Sanitaria (IECS) is an independent, non-profit organization located in Buenos Aires, Argentina, that develops research, education, and technical support activities to improve health care systems in Latin America and around the world. As a research assistant for IECS, I assisted a team of researchers from Argentina who were studying the effects of calcium supplementation on the development of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, particularly preeclampsia. To build upon the evidence available, I contributed to a literature review explaining the mechanism by which calcium impacts the development of preeclampsia. Additionally, I assisted with the creation of concept notes and the development of other manuscripts that focused on different aspects of maternal and child health, such as the global inequitable use of cesarean sections. Overall, my practicum with IECS was an amazing experience that challenged me and gave me further insight into the field of global health.
Can you tell us more about your role as a Young Professionals Board Member with Curamericas Global?
Yes! Curamericas Global is a global non-profit organization based in Raleigh and they do amazing, sustainable work across the globe to improve the health and wellbeing of mothers and their children. It’s an organization very close to my heart and as a member of the Young Professionals Board (YPB), I am able to help plan fundraising events throughout the year to support Curamericas’ mission. Additionally, I’ve gotten the opportunity to learn from the nurses and volunteers working on the ground at one of Curamerica’s Casa Maternas in Guatemala where they provide maternal and child health services. Having the opportunity to meet those from the communities with whom we partner has been the best part of my experience on the YPB and it inspires me to continue giving back to this amazing organization!
What does “global health” mean to you?
To me, global health is the practice of improving health and actively working towards health equity by embracing and respecting the strengths, culture, traditions, history, and values of communities around the world. The goal is to make sustainable change that is both evidence-based and rooted in empowering others.
What drew you to the Gillings School of Global Public Health?
Along with its stellar reputation, I was drawn to Gillings because of the faculty and their commitment to student success during the program and post-graduation. When I visited for Accepted Students’ Day, I was blown away by the faculty and their dedication to the student experience. Throughout my Gillings experience thus far, this could not be more true! Not only have the faculty been incredible, but the people I have met in my program are truly one of a kind. Everyone is so talented, and I have learned so much from them!
What is your dream job?
This is a question I’m still asking myself! However, I think my dream job would be working as an Executive Director for a global NGO that partners with communities in Latin America, where my family is from. This job seems like a great fit because I would be able to oversee day-to-day operations, while also having the opportunity to work closely with our partners and build relationships with members of the communities.
If I had to choose a non-public health career, I would love to own a coffee shop! I have a deep love for coffee, and I feel like owning my own cafe would be perfect for me! Maybe I can be an Executive Director and open a coffee shop on the side. Who knows what the future has in store!
What is something you would love to relive one day?
This is not public health-related, but I would love to relive my engagement! The day I got engaged was one of the best days of my life and my fiancé is the #1 supporter of my global health dreams and endeavors. Shout out to him! (I bet he’s reading this haha!)