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First-Gen Student Shares Highlights From Her Path to Public Health

Dornsife student on campus

March 5, 2024

Dornsife School of Public Health (DSPH) undergraduate student Anika Islam recently shared more about the BS in Public Health program, including what it was like switching majors, navigating a commute to school, and completing a Drexel co-op.

Tell us a little about yourself!

I am a first-generation student majoring in Public Health at DSPH with a minor in Health Services Administration.

I completed my co-op at the Center for Public Health Readiness and Response at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) in spring/summer 2023 which is located at the Roberts Center for Pediatric Research. During my co-op, I gained knowledge in substance use disorder, hand hygiene, and the diverse facets of public health.

Why did you decide to pursue public health?

It may sound cliché, but growing up with immigrant parents I saw how much my parents loved helping others and not expecting anything in return.

It motivated me to work in a field where I can do the same. I plan to use my degree in public health to focus on advocating for policies that improve health outcomes and reduce healthcare disparities in communities that are underprivileged.

What challenges have you faced while working towards your degree?

An obstacle that I faced while working toward my degree was figuring out a schedule that worked for me. Being a commuter, I often encountered challenges in balancing assignments, studying, and joining extracurriculars. I always had to factor in when to commute to and from school which limited me from participating in other things not related to schoolwork. As a junior now, I figured out strategies that work for me and push myself to do things that are a bit out of my comfort zone.  

Why DSPH? What made this school or program stand out?

The faculty members and professors at Dornsife truly make sure that students understand the material they are being taught. What stood out to me in the public health program is how helpful the advisors are to the students.

When I first started at Drexel, I was a health science major pursuing pre-Physician Assistant studies. However, after my first year, I realized that I wanted to do more for my community which is when I stumbled upon public health. My advisor was super helpful when I transitioned into public health and is always open to hearing suggestions on how to improve the program!

What is your favorite class so far and/or a positive experience you’ve had at DSPH?

I think my favorite class would be the injury prevention and control course taught by Dr. Jennifer Taylor. She is an incredible professor and always ensures that every student’s voice is heard during our discussions. Before taking the course, I did not know anything about injury prevention and that is ok. Dr. Taylor does a great job of creating content that is easy to understand and teaches us how to apply them to real-world problems. I am always looking forward to her class!

I do appreciate how helpful all the faculty members are at Dornsife. I am currently the events coordinator for the Dornsife Student Government Organization. During our bi-weekly meetings with our advisors, they provide us with the resources and support we need to succeed as an organization.

Can you share what you learned from co-op?

One valuable lesson I gained from my Drexel co-op experience is to approach situations with the best intent. Whether in a professional or academic setting, there can be times when there is frustration present. I discovered that maintaining a positive outlook in those situations can help.

What’s next for you?

After completing my bachelor’s in public health, I hope to pursue a master’s in public health concentrating in either epidemiology or health policy.

I'm interested in advocating for disability rights and addressing social inequalities experienced by South Asians. As I continue my educational career, I look forward to exploring these topics further.

Learn more about Undergrad Public Health Programs at Drexel Dornsife