ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) – At sunset at Lane Stadium Wednesday night, a group of Virginia Tech students did something no other Hokie undergraduate had done before.
“I want to say first- yes. The first graduating class of the undergraduate public health program is here at Virginia Polytechnoic Institute and State University, ”said student and graduate speaker Maya Rakotoariso.
It’s a program that didn’t exist when these students began their college journey but has shown its importance over the past two years.
“You didn’t have a crystal ball four years ago when you chose this path, but you hit the lottery to choose the field that has proven to be important over the past two years,” the commencement speaker said. and New River Valley Health District Director Dr Dr. .Noelle Bissell.
“Since I was pre-med, I thought‘ okay, I’m going to the doctor ’, and my parents were‘ okay, nice to hear! ’,” Rakotoariso recalls. “Then I was like‘ no worries, I’m healthy in public, ‘and they say’ are you sure? ‘ and then the pandemic hit and it showed all the opportunities within the field. My parents were no longer afraid that I would not find work. ”
“Here at Virginia Tech in particular, they’re really focused on something called One Health, which is the combination of human health, animal health, and environmental health,” the public health graduate explained. Abigail Dunahoo. “They really taught us to promote all three of those things. It’s also a lot of promotion of health and fairness. They really want to teach us how to combat health differences when we go out into the world.”
A world that is just beginning to look the other way in a global pandemic.
“Maybe before the pandemic, no one knew what public health was, but now everyone knows what public health is, especially now,” Dunahoo continued. “Everyone’s eyes are on us as public health professionals going forward so it’s important that we conduct ourselves well and we improve public health in the best way we can.”
“As a woman of color, I was never promoted in the field of health care and I wanted to be the change I wanted to see,” Rakotoariso explains. “Through my public health degree I hope I can do that.”
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