Why The MPH Was Right For Me - Ramon Llamas

Before I can “connect the dots,” as Steve Jobs eloquently described it in a commencement ceremony speech at Stanford many moons ago, I should first give you a bit of background on me.

A fourth-year pre-med Biology major at UC Irvine, I admit that I stumbled into the field of public health.  The summer of 2005, I studied Italian language and culture in Siena, Italy to fulfill general education requirements.  Thanks to some poor planning on my end, I missed my registration window by a few hours and couldn’t sign up for the classes I needed for my major.  Little did I know this misstep (or kismet) forced me to scramble to register for a full-time load of classes, one of which was an introduction to public health.  I don’t want to bore you with the details, but after I understood the main philosophy of public health – prevent disease before it happens – I was hooked.  That one class, taught by one of my mentors, Dr. Zuzana Bic, changed the course of my career and life.  I was inspired and envigorated by the coursework and I was energized by the movement.  One opportunity led to another and by the end of that academic year, I had co-founded a public health club on campus, became a leader at the student health center and also became involved in advocacy efforts for a non-smoking campus policy.  

3 Reasons Why a MPH Degree Was Right For Me

  1. I believe it has to do with my personality and how my mind works.  I enjoy viewing health in many angles.  For example, I can geek out discussing health systems, policy initiatives and interventions on a population level.  But I can also appreciate the tremendous effort it takes to change health behaviors at the individual level.  Public health helped me discover that I like “working” with people and groups of people.  But what does this mean?  Most of the pre-med coursework that I completed until my 3-month stint in Italy viewed health at the cellular and molecular level.  Public health helped illuminate the fact that cells and molecules and the science of health and medicine was not the right fit for me.  I was more interested in studying trends, how people thought and underlying motivations as it dealt with their health behaviors.  Public health fit my personality and when after that realization, my path went in a completely different direction and I can’t be more thankful.  I feel I have found my purpose and I remind myself constantly of this when I want to start complaining that I’m tired or lazy.
  2. It gave me with the educational foundation to speak to people from all walks of life – from educators to clinicians and from executives to policy makers – chances are good that I’ve had an interaction with them.  It gave me the educational foundation to organize ideas into programs with goals and evaluation methods.  It exposed me to new ideas and a larger awareness of the national and global politic.  My MPH from the University of Southern California gave me the confidence and self-assurance to spread my wings beyond my home state of California to Washington DC…and if all goes to plan, it will allow me the opportunity to move to explore opportunities internationally.
  3. Simple answer – it just fits.  And I will never question why anymore.  The question on my mind is always “what can I do next to continue learning about improving health on the individual and population level?”

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