Alumna Spotlight: Desa Yadegarians

Meet Desa Yadegarians, a former graduate of the Health Science with a focus in Community Health program at CSULB. Since completing her degree, she has gone on to do extensive research and professional growth in the local public health sector of Long Beach. Now as a current student of the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, her expertise is being utilized in the field of childhood trauma-informed care, further expemplifying the diversity that is available with a career in Health Science. "The field of public health is truly an art and a science," she said. 

I am currently a second year Master of Public Health student in the Department of Community Health Sciences at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. Prior to the start of graduate school, I was a community worker for the local health department in Long Beach, CA. I had the pleasure to work with diverse communities in underserved neighborhoods on the topics of nutrition, physical activity, and bike and pedestrian safety. My primary responsibilities involved facilitating health education classes, hosting cooking demonstrations, conducting outreach at community events, and coordinating a youth-led participatory action research project. 

Currently, I am in the middle of my field studies practicum of my graduate program. I am interning at a managed care organization and my internship project is focused on Adverse Childhood Experiences and trauma-informed care. I am working alongside an amazing and well-rounded team to develop a multicultural toolkit while gaining skills related to cultural and linguistic competency. 

The intersection of health and prevention sparked my interest in public health. I have always had a passion for health, but I was only familiar with clinical pathways to pursue a health-oriented career. The material I learned in HSC 435 (Health Promotion and Risk Reduction) introduced me to community health and public health principles that inspired a newfound interest. My interest in caring for people evolved into disease prevention and health promotion. I applied for internship opportunities to see what public health looks like in practice, which solidified my decision to pursue a career and higher education in public health. 

The field of public health is truly an art and a science. We know that no two populations are the same, so this requires creativity and incorporating evidence-based practices in a way that resonates with the target population. Additionally, as public health is moving “upstream,” this raises a collective nationwide challenge to address root causes of inequalities within different communities and systems. These challenges nonetheless propel my interests in health communication and health equity, as I try to understand the context of an individual or community in order to tailor messaging and intervention ideas. 

It is a joy to work with the community to brainstorm solutions to achieve health and well-being. During my role as a community worker, I enjoyed listening and engaging with community members as well as collaborating with partners. Public health work is often invisible or in the background, but it is a rewarding profession to be able to serve as a community resource and to empower and serve those who need it most. 

The highlight of my undergraduate program was conducting research alongside Dr. Fiona Gorman. This research experience led me to an incredible opportunity to present a poster at the 2015 American Public Health Association conference in addition to gaining experience drafting a manuscript for publication. I was also a member of the Health Science Student Association and Eta Sigma Gamma, which were great opportunities to network with my peers and faculty– some of whom I am still in contact with today! When professors brought in guest speakers or shared about internship opportunities, I would look into the organization and application process. For example, this is how I learned about a summer internship opportunity with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, where I was first exposed to public health practice.

These experiences resulted in mentorships and support that have been pivotal to my growth. I truly believe I would not be where I am now without the support and experiences that the Health Science undergraduate program offers at CSULB! 

Seek out opportunities to be involved! This could include gaining research experience on campus or applying to volunteer/internship opportunities. There is value to extract from any of these experiences. Public health was one of those career paths I didn’t really understand until I sought out opportunities to see what it looks like in practice. If faculty share about current projects they are working on that sound interesting to you, visit them during office hours to chat about it more and express your interest in potentially collaborating with them. The faculty within the HSC program are incredible resources and a wealth of knowledge. 

Also, the public health field is a small world! I know it can be a daunting or exhausting task, but I recommend attending networking events that HSSA/ESG host or simply reaching out to faculty. Their own shared experiences and insight is an asset to your educational journey! Making connections can bring forth amazing opportunities to enrich your own academic and professional career trajectory.