International Health Major Focuses on Health Disparities

OCTOBER 11, 2012 - International health major Juan Dent (NHS’14) says he had a ‘amazing summer’ working on health disparities at the policy and local levels.

The undergraduate, who is originally from San Jose, Costa Rica, interned at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), served as a research assistant for three Georgetown University faculty members, and took two courses.

Policy Lessons at PAHO

Under the supervision of Alessandra Guedes, MA, MSc, PAHO’s regional adviser on intra-family violence, Dent was encouraged to attend speaking engagements and to interact with leaders throughout the organization.

“At PAHO, I had the opportunity to speak with medical doctors working on public health policy and to listen to many different speakers that gave presentations on health disparities,” said Dent. “It was interesting to see how the medical doctors brought their medical experiences into play on the policy level. There was something about their experiences as medical doctors that was fascinating to me. It really made me think, ‘this is something I want to do.’”

Participatory Research

As a research assistant for Edilma L. Yearwood, PhD, PMHCNS, BC, FAAN, associate professor of nursing, Rosemary K. Sokas, MD, MOH, chair of the Department of Human Science, and Elzbieta M. Gozdziak, PhD, director of research at the Institute for the Study of International Migration, Dent conducted community-based participatory research (CBPR) that contributed to research on health disparities among immigrant youth in Washington, DC.

“CBPR is the idea of not telling a community what to do, but rather working with the community to find out its needs and the best way to implement the solutions,” said Dent.

Dent’s research assistant position required him to interview and lead focus groups with Latino, Ethiopian, and Eritrean youth at Mary’s Center – a federally qualified health center founded by NHS alumna Maria Gomez (NHS’77), MPH, RN.

“I learned a lot of communication skills and how to better communicate concepts and ideas to the teens so they could better understand,” said Dent. “I also learned about the concepts in CPBR, working with the community instead of against them. I couldn’t have wished for a better research assistant position.”

‘It All Came Together’

In addition to his internship and research assistant position, Dent also took two courses over the summer – “Ethics, Gender, and Justice” at Georgetown University and “Calculus I” at American University.

While he admits his summer was busy, he appreciates how all of his experiences came together.

“The ‘Ethics, Gender, and Justice’ course, paired with working at PAHO on issues of intra-family violence, really complemented each other very well,” Dent said. “Then again at PAHO, I’d work with people that focused on health disparities. Then I would see how the theories they talked about on the policy level would actually be going on the local level. It all came together. It was an amazing summer.”

More About Dent

  • Co-chair on the NHS Minority Health Initiative Council
  • New Student Orientation captain
  • Volunteer at the Georgetown University Women’s Center and the N Street Village.
  • Research assistant for Yearwood, Sokas, and Gozdziak

By Alicia Lee