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Ualani Hoopai,
MPH Alumnus from CSUF

Ualani Hoopai

Who are you?
Originally from Honolulu, Hawai’i, I am a Native Hawaiian whose career #1 started on the east coast and ended in Southern California.  I graduated from Columbia College majoring in Business Administration with an emphasis in International Business. This complimented my professional travels abroad to execute requests / expectations of the corporate Clothing/Apparel companies I worked for.  After many years in this industry, I suddenly realized I needed to ‘Pay It Forward’ by helping and supporting my fellow Pacific Islanders.  So began a new journey….

For over three years, I have had the pleasure of volunteering and working very closely with the Pacific Islander Health Partnership (PIHP) and ‘Ainahau O Kaleponi Hawaiian Civic Club (AOKHCC), two 501(c)3 non-profit organizations whose purposes are to gain access to health, improve quality of life, and to preserve, perpetuate, and practice cultural values and traditions of the Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islander (NHPI) communities they serve.  In December of 2015, I completed the milestone of attaining a Master in Public Health (MPH) degree from California State University Fullerton in my efforts to better serve the needs of Pacific Island communities.

What field are you in and what attracted you to that field?
I currently work full-time for the American Cancer Society as a Health Systems Manager - Primary Care. This position focuses on building, supporting, and maintaining partnerships with clinics to implement and expand cancer screening efforts. Additionally, I am employed as an independent contractor for University of California, Riverside as a Project Manager / Health Educator / Research Assistant for an NHPI community program taking place in Santa Ana at Pacific Islander Health Partnership. Both of these professional opportunities align with my core studies in health promotion and disease prevention. Combining previous career interests (relationship building and maintenance) with newly acquired MPH skills satisfies my growing passion for building community capacity and contributing to NHPI research.

How do you hope to use your master’s degree to improve the health of your community?
Published research on Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (NHPIs) is sparse. I want to contribute to existing NHPI research, build NHPI community capacity, and guide/nurture/teach the next generation to honor/respect those who came before us yet continue to progress forward. Obtaining my MPH has given me a brand new skill set to plan, design, implement, disseminate, and report research findings about my community in a professional scientific manner. Without my MPH training, I would likely not be participating in any of these academic activities. Additionally, I look forward to continuing to collect data on current community based research projects on 1) Obesity with the University of Hawai`i and 2) Heart Health with University of California - Riverside,  then sharing those findings with the community so they understand and help to navigate towards overall community health. 

What is a resource or advice you wish you had before starting your master’s program?
A culminating project is one of three choices in order to graduate (Thesis, Project, Exam) from CSUF with an MPH.  Instructors promoted projects versus the other two and it was an incredible experience in which I learned so so much.  However, the time and effort required was under estimated. Professors mentioned it throughout the program but I did not fully understand until I actually began the project preparation process.  Additionally, having one’s research area of focus narrowed early on would also have been VERY helpful as the CSUF MPH curriculum builds upon one’s topic. Thus, making for more work when one switches topics as I had done after foundational pieces had been completed. Again, the earlier one decides the earlier one may begin building a relationship with the professors specializing in their area of interest. Hence, getting involved sooner to gain hands on experience means one is already familiar with the process/steps required (Lit reviews, IRB, survey design, data entry-cleaning, statistical analysis, etc.) and can better plan timelines and navigate hurdles.

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