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Grad Student Engaged in Public Health Inside, Outside Classroom

July 23, 2013

Triza Brion

Even though she lacks gymnastics skills, Triza Brion considers herself a “cheerleader for the University,” she said.

The master of public health student said being part of the Drexel family has helped her realize her potential as a student leader, grow as a public health professional and share her newfound knowledge and skills with those in need.

“I received so much in terms of being a student here,” the 24-year-old said. “Just seeing the passion and work ethic that my colleagues and professors display on a daily basis is really inspiring.”

Brion believes in the University’s mission. That’s why she works at the School of Public Health’s booths at health fairs and calls prospective students on a regular basis to answer their questions about Drexel. She also is a member of the Student Government Organization and has served on advisory boards for global health and the Department of Community Health and Prevention.

In her first year at Drexel, Brion was awarded the merit-based Dean’s Scholarship. Recently, she was awarded the Joseph C. Tringali Scholarship. Each is a big help financially, Brion said.

But, most of all, Brion said she is proud of the experiential learning that’s integrated into the School of Public Health curriculum. That’s why she chose Drexel.

The public health program requires that students devote 120 hours of their first year to a practicum focused on program planning and evaluation—Brion worked with the Foundation for International Medical Relief for Children. She’s now in her second year, when students are required to identify a problem in a community and partner with an organization to develop an approach or methodology to address it.

“Philadelphia is a wonderful city, but it definitely has a lot of social and health-related issues, so I knew I had a lot of great work that I could be doing here,” she said.

Brion came to Drexel from sunny Tucson, Ariz., where she grew up. She boasts three undergraduate degrees in biochemistry, molecular cellular biology and Spanish from the University of Arizona.

Brion said she always focused on health at an individual level, through a clinical or scientific viewpoint. But she wanted to learn more about preventing disease and improving health outcomes at a broader, community level.

“I think one of the most valuable lessons I've learned in public health is that improving health outcomes is much more complex than implementing an initiative to encourage people to exercise regularly or quit smoking,” she said. “While these problems are still very important to address through public health interventions, public health professionals are tasked to think much more holistically.”

Renee Turchi, a professor in the school of public health, has been a major influence on Brion, she said, always encouraging her to pursue her interests.

Before Brion came to Drexel, she completed a clinical internship for a month in Trujillo, Peru. She worked with local physicians and health care providers at a small family clinic and helped organize a community health outreach program that provided treatment for women and children.

Ever since, Brion has been drawn to maternal and child health initiatives. For her practicum, she worked on creating a curriculum for the FIMRC’s prenatal health program in Peru. Currently, Brion volunteers with Puentes Hacia el Futuro, a local wellness program, tutoring Latino immigrant students at a South Philadelphia elementary school. And next month, Brion will travel to Africa for two weeks to assist women and children in need with a group of students in Drexel’s Certificate in Global Health program.

Brion doesn’t plan to stop there; she said she’s applying for the Peace Corps and for a Fulbright Scholarship by summer’s end.

As for her long-term goals, she’s not sure.

“I think near future plans are more than enough to keep me busy right now,” Brion said.