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UCLA graduate students named 2023-2024 This is Public Health ambassadors

Sarah Stigers (left) and Lauren Morales (right) are pictured. Stigers and Morales, both of whom are graduate students at the Fielding School of Public Health, have been named as members of the This is Public Health program’s 2023-2024 ambassador cohort. (From left to right: Courtesy of Sarah Stigers and Courtesy of Lauren Morales)

By Danielle H. Cho

Sept. 26, 2023 1:32 p.m.

Two graduate students from the Fielding School of Public Health will serve as ambassadors in This is Public Health’s 2023-2024 cohort.

Sarah Stigers and Lauren Morales, both of whom are graduate students in public health, were among 82 ambassadors selected in July from around the world, according to the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health. Ambassadors work on projects to increase awareness about public health education, including social media takeovers, graduate school information sessions and presentations about public health, said Catherine Cortez, a 2021-2022 ambassador and former graduate student in public health.

Cortez, who is now a programmer analyst at Kaiser Permanente, said she applied after being inspired by past ambassadors for This is Public Health.

“ASPPH was such an incredibly helpful resource in helping me decide what route to take in grad school in public health,” she said.

Stigers said she became interested in public health after volunteering with the American Diabetes Association. As a Type 1 diabetic, she said her experience of not having a continuous glucose monitor in the past, which provides information that can reduce the need for serious interventions such as amputations, led her to be passionate about advocating for equity in medical technology access.

“I’m happy to be able to jump into this line of work, having firsthand knowledge with wearable technologies and access issues and understanding the intricacies of the health care system,” Stigers said.

She added that she was drawn to apply to the program because she wanted to get to know other public health students across the nation.

As part of the American Diabetes Association, Stigers said she has talked with congressional representatives to advocate for health policies that support the needs of those living with chronic illness. She added that she also testified before the California State Legislature in June in favor of an assembly bill that would cap insulin prices after she had to ration insulin while uninsured.

Morales said her interest in public health has been shaped by her childhood experiences in navigating the health care system, such as having to translate when her family needed to schedule appointments.

“For me, for some of my family members, it was hard to obtain health care, especially because of documentation status,” she said.

Morales said she is an intern at AltaMed Health Services, where she contacts patients to ensure they are getting colorectal and breast cancer screenings. She added that the department she works under is also involved in evaluating and improving the quality of clinics.

Morales said she wants to help support women’s and children’s health in marginalized communities in the future.

So far, the ambassadors have had monthly meetings on Zoom that involve hearing from panelists and having small group discussions with other members of their cohort to enhance their understanding of people’s different experiences in public health, Stigers said.

Morales said she appreciates how the program has helped her connect with students across the nation, raise awareness about public health and build professional communication skills.

She added that she hopes prospective students keep in mind that public health is much more diverse than it seems and that there are many different fields involved.

“There’s so many ways, so many interests that overlap with public health,” she said.

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Danielle H. Cho
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