Public health senior Estefany Frias spent the summer of 2012 working on a research project to advance scientific knowledge about interventions and solutions to health disparities throughout the state of New Mexico. “I wanted to do something different, so I ran a Google search and the opportunity with the New Mexico Center for Advancement of Research, Engagement and Science (CARES) on Health Disparities popped up,” says Frias. The CARES internship was located on the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center campus and as an intern, Frias assisted in compiling research data on two studies: post-partum depression and cervical cancer screenings.

Through her internship, Frias gained first-hand experience in all of the steps of the research process, ranging from recruitment to dissemination. She perfected important professional skills, such as how to create a survey, proofread large scientific documents and translate screening questions into Spanish. “Participating in the research process was life changing for me. It is very easy to take things for granted when one reads a research article because it seems like it was a simple study to conduct. I learned how difficult and frustrating conducting public health research can be, as well as how rewarding it feels when you help people better their health status,” says Frias.

“I also learned the importance of establishing trust with whatever population one wants to work with. It was not uncommon to see research scientists struggling to provide care to their target population in New Mexico but it was very moving to see the amount of years and dedication these health professionals put into establishing a relationship with Native Americans and Latinos. Interning at the Family and Community Medicine at UNM helped me envision the kind of opportunities I have with my public health education,” explains Frias.

The internship at UNM was the first time Frias participated in the research aspect of public health. She’s also interned with Caring Hospice at a nursing home where her responsibility was to provide comfort and care to patients suffering from Alzheimer and dementia. This semester, she is an intern at Upstate Medical University in the maternal and child health field working with Dr. Martha Wojtowycz and a task force group led by Dr. Richard Aubry.

Falk College classes that made an impact on her included Culturally Competent Healthcare (HTW 307) and Health Disparities and Vulnerable Populations (HTW 309). “I really enjoyed HTW 307 and 309 because they exposed me to a different side of public health. It was through those classes that I began to understand how gaps in the American health system came about. Not only did they help me open my eyes to the truth, but they also provided me with learning tools on how to solve these issues,” says Frias.

Her ultimate career goal is to become a plastic and reconstructive surgeon with a specialty in cleft palates. “I want to work abroad to implement healthcare programs that would help residents in Third World countries. To accomplish these goals, I will enter medical school so that I can graduate with a dual medical degree and Master of Public Health,” notes Frias.

A resident of Brooklyn, NY, Frias is an active member of Phi Delta Epsilon International Medical Fraternity and secretary of the Falk College Leadership Society. A member of the student organization Shadows of Health that links students with local health professionals, Frias volunteers weekly at Upstate Medical University Hospital.