BSPH-MPH student focused on racism as a public health issue
Meet Tinu Ijewemen, a third-year student in the College of Public Health’s combined BSPH-MPH program studying epidemiology.
What inspired you to pursue a public health education?
Public health is my health, my family’s health, and my friends’ health — those things are all very important to me. The pervasiveness of public health is what really inspired me to pursue public health education. I had no idea how encompassing it was until I began my undergraduate education. I soon realized that public health is everywhere, from the food I eat to the air I breathe. Public health professionals work to ensure that everyone has an equitable chance at a healthy life.
What public health topics are you most passionate about?
As a first-generation American, Black African woman, racism as a public health issue is one of my biggest passions. Racism has led to the unjust difference in infant and maternal mortality rates amongst Black women and children in the United States. The U.S. cannot claim to be the greatest (country) in the world if it continually fails to protect its most vulnerable.
As a child, one of my favorite TV shows was “Monsters Inside Me” on Animal Planet. Watching this show helped drive my passion for infectious diseases and pathology. I enjoy learning about bacterial and parasitic infections, although sometimes it’s very scary learning about how something so small could cause so much damage.
What have you enjoyed most about the combined BSPH-MPH program?
I have enjoyed getting to know the different students in my classes. In almost all my undergrad courses, my peers are close in age to me. In my graduate-level courses the distribution of age and life experiences is much vaster, which allows me to learn more about everything.
You pursued minors in sociology and history as part of your undergraduate degree. How did that complement your interest in public health?
To fully grasp public health, I believe there needs to be a rudimentary understanding of social structures and society. My sociology courses explain the problem and my public health-related courses explore potential solutions. My history minor has a theme of environment, health, technology and science, and I am able to learn about the history of the health care system, environmental justice and technology.
My history minor has opened my eyes to how entwined racism is within our health care system, which has further fueled my passion for public health.
What advice would you give future CPH students?
Do not be afraid to take chances and remember to always believe in yourself. I was only 18 years old when I applied to graduate school, 19 when I started, and now I’m 20. To be truthful, I was terrified at the prospect of starting graduate school so early. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to handle it, I was scared of failure, but in the end I am thriving and happy I took the chance.
Like many, I suffer from imposter syndrome, but I have to constantly remind myself that I would not be where I am if I were not qualified. If others can believe in me, then I can believe in me.