Who are you?
Hello! My name is Vattana Peong. I completed a Master’s Degree in Public Health (MPH) in May 2015 from California State University, Fullerton after earning my bachelor’s degree in 2005. I am currently serving as the Executive Director of a nonprofit, community-based agency in Orange County, California.
What field are you in and what attracted you to that field?
I am in the field of public health. I was born and raised in a suburb of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where the majority of my neighbors suffered from multiple health conditions that were highly preventable. I first became very interested in public health when a classmate of mine in high school got infected by syphilis. This was my first true introduction to a public health problem and the idea of finding out what causes a disease and what could be done to prevent it attracted me to the field of public health and later to pursue education and a career in this field. I then became a peer educator in my high school. I really like teaching people about disease prevention.
How do you hope to use your master’s degree to improve the health of your community?
Public Health is an interdisciplinary field that offers everyone a challenge as well as something to love. For my part, I have been working in the field of public health for over 10 years and my recent graduate research was related to uncovering the core reasons why health disparities continue to negatively and disproportionately impact the health and well-being of vulnerable communities, including immigrant and limited-English-proficient individuals and families. I hope to use my MPH degree to improve the health of our community through researching, identifying, and developing culturally and linguistically appropriate early intervention and prevention programs that can help improve health outcomes and ultimately reduce the overuse of emergency rooms. In addition, I hope to use my degree to influence decisions on public health policies so as to create equal access to quality healthcare for all underserved populations.
What is a resource or advice you wish you had before starting your master’s program?
It was fortunate that I had already been in the field of public health before starting my Master’s program, so I had opportunities to explore several options in public health. However, I wish I had access to a wide variety of research resources to read and opportunities to talk to a lot of public health professionals, including public health professors, researchers, and past and current MPH students, regarding my career goals and research interests, and learn more about the experiences of others in the public health field. If you have never been in the field of public health, I would recommend that you try to get involved with it by doing some related volunteer work and/or talking to people in the field.