Which people and/or events influenced your decision to work in this field?
This is a random, and funny story. I was on my way back from studying abroad in Siena, Italy (living la dolce vita) and wasn’t able to register for the courses I needed for my major (pre-med bio), so I filled my quarter schedule with electives, and “Introduction to Public Health” was one of them. Dr. Zuzanna Bic taught the class and her teaching style was the complete opposite from what I experienced in my college career to that point - with empathy and a mutual learning environment. The stark contrast to the competitive, memorize-and-regurgitate model in the pre-med biology world aligned with my values of collaboration and shared mission.
After that course, a couple classmates and I founded the Public Health Association at UC Irvine, and I’ve been doing some form of assessing needs and filling gaps ever since.
What was the answer you gave people as a child when asked what you want to be when you grow up?
I don’t think I had a consistent answer. I didn’t really know that entrepreneurship was a path growing up. I knew about “business” as this abstract concept, but had no idea how much creativity, grit, EQ, and so many other skills were needed to succeed.
My mom and grandmother built up small businesses and it wasn’t really on my radar until 2014, when I participated in a 54-hour startup weekend event. From then on, I was hooked on combining my public health knowledge with the innovation world.
What advice would you give yourself 3 years ago? 3 years from now?
In the past: trust your instincts. The reason why no one can relate to what you’re describing is because the way you’re thinking is outside of the perspective of individuals working in institutions. Stay the course.
In the future: there’s a great quote by MLK that I came across recently, which I’ll add to. “If I cannot do great things, I can do many small things great.”
My version: if I cannot do great things now, I can do many small things great and slowly build up to that great thing.