Originally published October 4, 2016
By Evelyn Garcia
Master’s student, Public Health
Back in January, the adviser of my program sent an email to the Master of Public Health students about a fellowship opportunity being offered in summer 2016. That made me want to look up what a fellowship was, and whether I could meet the requirements. After doing research on fellowships, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to gain public health experience out of El Paso and I went ahead and applied to multiple summer 2016 fellowships. I was selected by the Hispanic-Serving Health Professions Schools (HSHPS) Graduate Fellowship Training Program, which is an organization that selects students or recent graduates who are vested in Hispanic health issues. Based on my resume I was matched with a mentor at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Central Office in Washington D.C. I was assigned to the Center for Minority Veterans, which serves as an advocate for minority veterans by conducting outreach activities to promote the awareness and use of VA benefits and services.
Based on my research interests and with my mentor’s guidance, I had to complete a literature review analyzing the barriers for mental health service utilization among Hispanic veterans. During my 10-week stay, I worked on my literature review, redesigned the center’s website, and assisted my mentor in tracking how much outreach was being done to minority veterans throughout the nation. At the end of my fellowship I presented to the center the results of my literature review, and talked about the importance of cultural competence training when working with minority populations.
My experience living in D.C. allowed me to adjust to a hectic and fast-paced environment. I learned to assimilate to my surroundings and in this case how to commute using the metro and bus. My favorite part of the experience was being able to attend the 2016 LULAC national convention, featuring top leaders from the government, business and the Latino community. Attending the convention made me want to educate and empower others to turn their dreams into reality. Both living in D.C. and at the LULAC convention made me realize that minorities need more representation in the government and in top leadership positions. I learned to take chances when it comes to professional opportunities, including applying for internships, programs or jobs.
I want to advise others to take professional opportunities even when they are scared they will not be selected. I was able to live in D.C. without having to pay for anything for 10 weeks, and gained so much knowledge that I want others to be able to experience as well. My fellowship allowed me to network with many professionals and to see how many opportunities there are out there as a Public Health professional.