Published by Jaime Ruiz Villalobos on 09/15/2016
As the end of my first year as an MPH student at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health approached, it was time to seek out a summer internship. I never knew seeking an internship could be a daunting experience. One must consider where to do your internship, your discipline, your past work experiences, your relationship with a preceptor and hope all of this is paid! Historically, I would venture into the fields of HIV, LGBTQ+ Health, or Reproductive Health, as this is the type of work I have experience in and is the focus of many courses I’ve taken. However, when considering the definition of an internship, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and consider a role I had no previous experience in. Mind you, one would ask me, why one would want to do such a thing?!
I consider graduate school as a time of personal and professional growth and stepping out of one’s comfort zone. It was week 9 of spring quarter and the original internship I secured fell through at the last minute. At that moment I felt hopeless in attempting to secure another internship with such a quick turn round. I pondered to myself, what am I going to do? I frantically began researching more organizations to host me and came across the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California (LCHC), the only statewide organization with a specific emphasis on Latinx1 health that advocates to impact our community by focusing on policy development, providing enhanced information, and community involvement.
1 Latinx (pronounced “La-teen-ex”) is the gender-neutral alternative to Latino, Latina and Latin@. Used by scholars, activists, journalists and the general public. Latinx aims to move beyond gender binaries and is inclusive of the intersecting identities of Latin American descendants. In addition to men and women from all racial backgrounds, Latinx accommodates people who are trans, queer, agender, non-binary, gender non-conforming or gender fluid.
Trying Something New
When considering all of the work LCHC was doing, I was discouraged and honestly disinterested. I had no previous exposure in public policy or state legislative processes. I thought to myself, how is this related to public health? How will LCHC be able to develop me into the public health professional I aspired to be? I first applied out of desperation, but reflecting back to when I mentioned that an internship should be about “stepping out of my comfort zone,” I made the commitment and applied feeling uneasy, yet optimistic about this new adventure that I was embarking on. I was astonished that my ten weeks with LCHC exceeded my expectations, as LCHC was in fact doing public health work in innovative and multidisciplinary ways.
My field studies experience provided focus in three areas of public health including: oral health, comprehensive health care and chronic disease prevention. With an interdisciplinary and non-traditional approach to public health, I performed integral tasks such as drafting a report from the oral health assessment previously conducted by LCHC, translating Champions for Change profiles from Spanish-speaking community members regarding their experiences as role models, and drafting letters of support to the governor of California advocating for equal access to health care for Latinxs.
LCHC allowed me to view public health from an alternative perspective and has redefined my definition of what it means to work at the community level. After completing this internship, I possess greater confidence in conceptualizing and disseminating health policy, advocacy and public health’s role in the California State Legislative process. LCHC prepared me and reaffirmed my tenacity to serve and advocate for marginalized communities.
Opening My Eyes
My internship at LCHC gave me a new perspective on how public health professionals can provide health advocacy for the rights of my community at the state level. LCHC allowed me to view public health from an alternative perspective and has redefined my definition of working at the community level. This has enabled me to expand my job market into new industries I would have never considered. I am forever thankful for my preceptor, Rebecca De La Rosa, all of the LCHC staff and most importantly the “community” which I now refer to when discussing the state because I see our state as simply a “larger community”. I leave satisfied and content knowing the work I did contributed to the betterment of our community – a core philosophy in public health.
LCHC has broadened my horizons to many fields of public health that I would have never once considered. The staff at LCHC contributed to my personal and professional growth and will take what I’ve learned here to even greater lengths in my professional career. Furthermore, this was the first opportunity I’ve had to do work that focuses on Latinx populations, which are very near and dear to me and I can’t help but have a sense of emotional attachment.
LCHC demonstrates to me that representation does matter and the work that we do here makes every attempt to exemplify that. It was thrilled to have co-workers that resemble me, a preceptor who shares similar experiences as mine growing up and even seeing the César Chávez vota sign at the door when I come into work.I left the office every day knowing that we made a contribution to the advancement of our community and the feeling of participating in that is glorious. I am happy.
As a first-generation, Brown, ESL, queer, low-income, product of a migrant farm worker familia, I want to thank you, LCHC, for valuing and acknowledging my intersecting identities. To me, this was the most import component of this internship.
The Water Bottle
Above is a photo of a water bottle, and I leave LCHC with this token of appreciation. Although the concept appears simple, this water bottle is a simple reminder of our tireless work in improving the health of the Latinx community and our commitment to social justice. This water bottle provides nuestra comunidad with the necessary tool to fight colonization in the forms of aggressive consumer marketing the sugary sweetened beverage corporations have on our communities, especially with nuestros niños. To me this bottle exemplifies the importance of consuming more water and less sugary sweetened beverages. Our community carries the unfortunate disparities of diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay as a result of consuming sugary drinks.
To me I see this token as a form of public health prevention, a cuidado from my LCHC familia, as a means to protect me from the harmful effects of sugary sweetened beverages. Latinxs are almost twice as likely as Whites to be diagnosed with diabetes by a medical provider. Latinxs have higher rates of end-stage renal disease, caused by diabetes, and they are 40% more likely to die from diabetes as opposed to Whites. Latinx adults are 1.7 times more likely than White adults to have been diagnosed with diabetes by a physician. In 2010, Latinx womxn2 were 1.5 times as likely as Whites womxn to die from diabetes.
2 Womxn - A commonly used substitute to avoid using the suffix “-men,” in an effort to achieve independence from patriarchal linguistic norms.
I see this bottle as an act of resistance to these aforementioned statistics, and consider this resistance from a historical aspect with the Aztec goddess of water, Chalchiuhtlicue, who was an embodiment of youthful beauty, fervor and was considered the protectress of children and newborns. She can often be depicted as a river ordained with children and prickly pear cactus laden with fruit, symbolizing the human heart. Our ancestors acknowledged the importance of water as most abundant resource in their lives and can conceptualize that water does embody youthfulness and benefits the human heart. In closing, I see LCHC doing acts of resistance everyday with their work in public policy and advocacy, community education, and health equity research.
I thank LCHC for allowing me to become part of this resistance and carry it with me throughout the halls of UCLA and with my community. From the bottom of mi corazón my most sincere Tlazohcamati (Thank you).
- Diabetes – The Office of Minority Health. (2016). Minorityhealth.hhs.gov. Retrieved 12 September 2016, from http://bit.ly/1R7oJ2E
- Chalchiuhtlicue | Aztec goddess. (2016). Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 14 September 2016, from http://bit.ly/2d4xpGH
- Took, T. (2016). Chalchiuhtlicue, Aztec Goddess of Flowing Water. Thaliatook.com. Retrieved14 September 2016, from http://bit.ly/2cVe9uH
- Maestri, N. (2016). Chalchiuhtlicue. About.com Education. Retrieved 14 September 2016, from http://abt.cm/2ddarfi