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ASU Online graduates to use their new degrees to focus on global health equity


Portrait of ASU student Talia Hernandez standing outside in front of a tree.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in global health and a Bachelor of Science in biology, Talia Hernandez still wanted to learn how to develop, implement and evaluate global and public health interventions. This fall, she graduates from the newly developed Master of Science in global health online program being offered by ASU's School of Human Evolution and Social Change.

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December 12, 2022

Four students will be the first to receive their graduate degrees from the new ASU Online Master of Science in global health (MSGH) program offered by the School of Human Evolution and Social Change. The inaugural cohort of this degree graduates this fall with a goal of improving health care across the world.

The program, which launched in the fall of 2021, makes it possible for students across the country, and around the world, to learn about why and how health disparities evolved in communities and what can be done to fix it, explained Roseanne Schuster, assistant research scientist and program lead.  

“The MS in global health program centers on the human experience, drawing from our school’s mission and faculty expertise in anthropology and evolutionary medicine, instead of an international biomedical framework that is applied elsewhere, and where things are constantly compared to the U.S. as the norm,” Schuster said. 

The online program allows students to continue working in their field of practice and contribute to their home communities while still engaging in innovative higher education learning and world-wide internships.  

“Internships include developing a monitoring evaluation and learning plan for a health library in Malawi for the ASU-based SolarSPELL and community needs assessment at the conservation food security nexus in Indonesia,” Schuster said. 

We talked to two of this semester's graduating students about their experience in the program and what their plans are after graduating. 

Talia Hernandez 

After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in global health and a Bachelor of Science in biology, Talia Hernandez still wanted to learn how to develop, implement and evaluate global and public health interventions. She started investigating programs and enrolled in the newly developed Master of Science in global health online program being offered by Arizona State University's School of Human Evolution and Social Change. 

“I knew the courses would increase my skills and knowledge needed to work in public health intervention implementation,” Hernandez said. “I also wanted to increase my scope of understanding of the topics addressed by global health interventions and other courses offered would do just that.”

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: I decided I needed to learn and work in global health when I was still a pre-medicine student during my undergraduate years. I was interning at a clinic mainly serving low-income and Spanish-speaking patients. Here is where I saw the effects of compounded economic, political and social barriers to health services on everyday people. I knew that I wanted to impact health at a population and systems level, and found out about the BA in global health at ASU. This led me down a path of work in global health. 

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: It is so hard to decide which lesson I’ve learned is the most important. I would say that the most impactful lesson, however, is fully understanding that I have the tools and skills to learn about anything, especially within global and public health practices. A discussion with Associate Professor Katie Hinde led me to realize that courses in the MS in global health program were set up to better us as researchers and learners, and that I now have the skills and knowledge to be a researcher. 

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: I would recommend students take time to conduct informational interviews with professionals in your field to learn about their jobs, career pathways and any other valuable information they have learned working in the field.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I plan to continue to work in the public/global health space here in the U.S. I am, however, also in the process of identifying microbiology PhD programs that focus on global health topics such as neglected diseases and reemerging infectious diseases that impact population health. 

Q: What has been your takeaway from the MSGH program?

A: My key takeaway is a philosophy of global health. I believe that global health interventions and research must include the populations they seek to assist in the designing and implementation. Otherwise, interventions and research can be unhelpful and even harmful to the very people the activities are meant to assist.

Q: What has been your favorite course or learning experience, and why? 

A: It is very difficult to select my favorite course! However, I will say that Evolutionary Medicine (ASM 503), taught by Associate Professor Katie Hinde, was one of the most impactful courses I took during my MSGH program. My academic background and passions include biology, global health and policy, and this course was able to expand my understanding of how an understanding in biology can be applied to global health. Moreover, this course solidified my interest in infectious diseases, specifically the host-pathogen interaction, by providing a view of health through the lens of evolutionary medicine. 

Q: What are you excited about in terms of the field of global health? 

A: I’m excited about the increased common knowledge of global health. When folks ask what I study or what work I do, and I mention global health, they know what that looks like and means. Considerable help was provided through the common discussions of public health programs and policies regarding COVID-19, and I do not think that will easily disappear. I hope that with increased awareness of global health, there will also be increased interest and activity by people!

Q: What advice do you have for others considering entering our global health program?

A: My one piece of advice would be to reach out to the program faculty, advisors and current students to discuss your goals and interests. A collaborative approach to selecting your coursework and learning trajectory can be very helpful as the folks in this space know much about the activities and research happening now. I would also like to share that your interests in global health can change and develop over the time in this program, and that is normal.

Desiree Melvin

Desiree Melvin standing in a field in her graduation robe and stole

Desiree Melvin is graduating this fall with a Master of Science in global health. Born and raised in Glendale, Arizona, Melvin also obtained her undergraduate degree in medical studies from the College of Health Solutions at Arizona State University. 

Melvin said ASU was a great fit for her and her family because of the affordable cost and programs offered. She received several scholarships but paid 95% of both her undergraduate and graduate degree out of pocket through working. 

She decided to pursue the Master of Science in global health because she is interested in social determinants of health and how providers can bridge the gap in health disparities. 

“I not only wanted an education on how to care for and treat medical conditions in one person, but I wanted more education regarding ways in which to promote health and prosperity of all, and things that hinder this, and how we as professionals can reduce health disparities that are currently present,” Melvin said.   

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: My “aha” moment was early on when I was younger. I was constantly in and out of the hospital, and the way the doctors, nurses and other health care providers were interacting with me and my family resonated with me, even over a decade later. At that moment, I knew I wanted to be in their shoes, helping people in their most vulnerable moments and in their most difficult times of their lives, to help provide the best possible care and communication I could, because that's what my family and I received when I was in the hospital. It helped us through such a hard time, more than those providers even knew. 

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Associate Professor Katie Hinde and Clinical Assistant Professor Heather Ross both taught me so much during my graduate degree with ASU. Both professors also challenged me the most in my coursework, which at the time I was not a fan of, but I grew to appreciate the challenges they created with their coursework and assignments, and it helped me open my mind and learn so much more than I could have ever thought possible.

Q:  What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation, I plan on studying for the MCAT and taking the exam in April of 2023. I then plan on applying for medical schools in May of 2023. While preparing for this, I also plan on working as an EMT, volunteering and continuing to shadow to build my experience for medical school applications. 

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: If I had $40 million dollars to solve one problem, I would solve the issue of homelessness across the globe. We have the resources needed to give everyone a place to sleep comfortably each night, with clothes on their back and food in their stomach. This is an issue I would dedicate time and money to solve.  

Q: What has been your takeaway from the MSGH program?

A: All in all, the common idea from all work is that health is complex, and more research needs to be implemented to increase health and accessibility to adequate health care needs for all. Health and the health care sector are a multifaceted concept that requires a complex and multifaceted approach to reduce health care disparities.

Q: What do you hope to do with your degree following graduation?

A: I hope to use this in my future career as a health provider to really understand all aspects of health and health care delivery, but also understand and analyze struggles in accessing and maintaining health in our modern-day society, and hopefully use these tools in partnership with other providers and organizations to promote population health across all social determinants of health. 

Q: What has been your favorite course or learning experience, and why? 

A: My favorite course so far has been Maternal and Child Health. The readings and work in this course were very interesting, and I was able to learn so much regarding maternal and child health and just how fundamental the maternal and child relationship is. 

Q: What advice do you have for others considering entering our global health program?

A: Leave your biases as the door. Recognizing inherent biases is an important part of health care, as identifying these helps us move forward more efficiently. It is important to keep an open mind, but also a mindset dedicated to serving the betterment of the population. Our personal opinions, although still valid, are not nearly as important when it comes to setting up an environment in which access to quality care is readily available across all populations of people. I think it is important to maintain this idea of adaptability and keep an open mind when it comes to the learning material, and populations of people we work with, as an imperative end goal is bettering the global health of all, not just ourselves or people similar to us.

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