Karen Cherfils enrolled in the Drexel University School of Public Health in 2002 with the hope of earning her master’s degree in two years and starting a career in hospital administration. Yet, those plans quickly changed.
After starting classes at the SPH, Karen started doing her community-based research project at Planned Parenthood of Philadelphia. She worked closely with Dr. Bill Hickey and Dr. Sabine Eustache, who were her two faculty advisors at the school.
Karen became active in the school's student government organization and things were going along as planned. However, everything suddenly changed when Karen’s mother became very ill with breast cancer during her second year at the school.
What was once a clear path, now became blurred.
Karen wanted to spend time as much time with her mother before she was eventually taken by the cancer.
"It was a very difficult and emotional time for me and my family, but the School of Public Health was very supportive," said Karen. "I decided to take some time away from school."
Karen returned to Drexel University as a virtual student two years later to complete her Community-based Masters Project and continue her pursuit of earning a degree. Finally, in 2008, Karen graduated with a concentration in health management and policy. However, her sites were no longer on hospital administration.
"After going through so much with my mother, I was no longer sure that I could do hospital-related work. Instead, I began to get connected with many health-related nonprofit and community organizations," said Karen. "It was at this point, I noticed there was a need for a health and wellness network for women of color."
From this, the idea for www.ourhealthourlives.com was born. The online network is a forum for women to discuss questions, concerns and triumphs related to health and wellness.
"It’s best described as WebMD meets Facebook," said Karen. "It's an online portal where people can go to post secure updates on sick family members for other relatives and friends, as well as get expert medical advice."
"Our hope is that the virtual village created on the website will be a start in the goal to improve the health status of women of color everywhere," said Karen.
Karen received her undergraduate degree in biology from Hampton University. She was born in the Bronx, NY, and now resides in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband, Steve Cherfils, Esq.
For more profiles of students living public health at Drexel University, click here.