I began my journey to public health as a child who was interested in becoming a physician.

Personal Information

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M. Maya


Delta Public Health Fellow


Boston, Massachusetts


$40,000 - $60,000


Mississippi State University and Harvard School of Public Health


University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
B.S., Biology

University of Kentucky College of Public Health
M.P.H., Epidemiology

Boston University School of Public Health
Ph.D., Health Services Research

Career Bio

The profession

Public Health is a multidisciplinary field that improves the health of populations by promoting health, through efforts such as health education, disease surveillance, efficient delivery of healthcare, and policy. As a post-doctoral fellow, I am engaged in a variety of public health and health services research projects such as: evaluation of a 5-year Mississippi (MS) Department of Health intervention aimed at reducing cardiovascular risk factors and associated poor health outcomes in the MS Delta Region; I lead a project focused on the economic impact of potential hospital closure in rural MS; and am evaluator for an initiative in Clarksdale, MS that aims to improve child development and parenting.

How I got here

I began my journey to public health as a child who was interested in becoming a physician. I am naturally curious, thus the field of science and application of inquiry was appealing. In addition, as a child of immigrant parents, I was exposed to the following careers: doctors, teachers, lawyers, nurses, or engineers. So I thought the best way to have a good career was to become a physician. I gained insight into the work of physicians by shadowing a physician and volunteering in a hospital. I also worked in a research lab conducting research on the genetic predispositions related to colorectal cancer. However, as I matriculated through college, I realized I could make more of an impact if I focused on population health rather than individual health. At a graduate school fair, I met with several individuals from various schools of public health and realized that public health fit with my interests. Thus, I transitioned to a Master's of Public Health program at the University of Kentucky, worked for state government in Kentucky, and then went on to earn my PhD from Boston University. Through my educational and professional training, I was exposed to a variety of public health activities including research, workforce development, statewide efforts to reduce chronic disease, and clinical research focused on improving engagement in HIV primary care.

A typical day

My work days varies but includes: writing manuscripts, conducting data analysis, participating in meetings, supervising students, and writing grants. I work collaboratively and independently'”but the level of collaboration is project and task specific. As a PhD level researcher, most of my work is self-directed. I occasionally travel to meet with key stakeholders and to present/disseminate my work to regional and national audiences.

The hardest parts

One of the biggest challenges is managing and balancing my multiple roles. At times it can be overwhelming to complete all of my tasks and maintain my own sense of self. I keep a weekly list of accomplishments that need to be achieved by the end of the week. This list does help keep me on task, but I find that I occasionally have to postpone some activities until the next week.

The best parts

I enjoy knowing that my work is making an impact on public health and policy in MS. I also enjoy knowing that my areas of interest have the capacity to transform communities.

The myths of the profession

I am not engaged with the community; I can only be involved in activities in which I am an expert; I don't get to work with others.

The workplace

My workplace was established in 1950 with the mission to enhance and facilitate social science research and scholarly activities. We are a large complex that employs over 100 researchers with an additional 200 part-time data collectors and project associates. The dress code is casual to business casual. I wear business casual sometimes and business attire at others. On Fridays, we wear casual attire.

Advice for someone thinking about going into the field

I would advise that you spend time exploring the various opportunities and career paths that are available in public health. Also explore if you are more interested in population vs. individual health; practicing public health in an applied vs. research environment; and learn the differences between types of research (research is more than experimenting on animals and mixing chemicals!).

Advice to my younger self

Stay humble, ask people about their journey to where they are and where they came from, and never be ashamed to ask for help---no person is an island and it takes a village of helpers to get through life!