Student Spotlight

KarenKaren Iglesias

  • Masters Degree Candidate in Public Health specializing in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
  • Office Assistant in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences for the Associate Dean of Administration
  • Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work
  • Florida International University

Karen Iglesias is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Public Health with a specialization in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. Karen also graduated from FIU in 2009 with a bachelor's degree in Health Sciences and a minor in Psychology. Her passion for public health extends to helping the immigrant communities of South Florida, especially the farm worker population.

Her dedication and contributions to the immigrant community, both children and families, awarded the 2012 Provost Award for Graduate Student Engagement. The “White Socks” wellness project and the “Public Health Community Project for Immigrants” were two initiatives in which Karen had a measurable impact on the immigrant community. Like much of her efforts within FIU, Karen plans to continue to serve as the “link that so many communities need in order to have access to health care and reduce existing health disparities.”

With plans to open a non-profit organization by mobilizing, educating and advocating for public health issues, Karen is a prime example of what it means to be World’s Ahead.

Short interview with Karen Iglesias

What recent projects have you been working on at the College level?
Currently I have been working on organizing a campaign called the "Economics of Good Health" that my group, the Stempel Public Health Association, created for National Public Health Week. Every year we celebrate public health at the national level with a week full of events. The goal this year was to educate our FIU community about the importance and cost-effectiveness of prevention. We are one of few universities who actually have an event for every day of National Public Health Week (April 2nd -6th). Every day we celebrate different health themes, like healthy eating, alcohol awareness, communicable diseases, sexual health and mental health by providing statistics and engaging students. The goal was also to create awareness on public health, and unite students form different fields and educational levels to work together towards a healthier community. We were able to successfully create this, by partnering up with different organizations like Delta Omega, VOX: Voices for Planned Parenthood, as well as support from University Health Services. Through the campaign we also ignited students to create their own health initiatives and be more proactive. Our campaign was recognized by a national public health blog called "the Pump Handle" for which I was interviewed regarding our University's events for National Public Health week 2012.

Which of these projects is your favorite? Why?
As an undergraduate student at FIU I was one of the students who created the Public Health Community Project for Immigrants (PHCPI). Through this organization I have been able to create health initiatives for migrant farm workers living in Florida City. My passion for public health arose here and it has been three years now that I have dedicated my time to not only help educate this population, but also link them to community resources and advocate for their access to health care. We have created programs for children, farm worker men, and families. Our work helps the more than 200 families who live in this community. One of my favorite projects that we have created in the community is called "The White Socks Project". The goal of this project is to educate the children in the community about healthy eating and encourage active living. Last year I directed the project with 15 students from different fields at FIU. The students prepared for months on creating a program for the children that was both engaging and informational. We taught students about "My Plate" and created fun games that encouraged the children to be active. It was a great way to apply the knowledge you learn in the classroom and translate that to an effective program. Through the success of the program, I was able to get funding to have a nutritionist teach the parents about the importance of having a healthier lifestyle. It is an amazing program and I hope to take lead again this summer.

What do you love MOST about your field?
What I love most about public health is that I am able to create programs that can make my community healthier. I can make a difference in hundreds of lives. Public health is everywhere and I want to teach others that it plays a vital part in keeping our community healthy. Linking people to resources, creating awareness on health issues and being able to advocate for laws that promote health for our community is all part of public health. It is a field that I think everyone should learn about, especially any future health professional.

What do you eventually want to do with your degree? What's your next step after graduation?
I am very excited about graduating in August. My future goals are to open a non-profit organization that focuses on helping immigrant farm workers. I plan to be the link that so many communities need in order to have access to health care and hopefully reduce existing health disparities. I am very interested in doing research relating to farm worker health and pesticides. This is a very serious issue for this population and I hope that my work can help create initiatives that target this. I also look forward to continuing to create opportunities for FIU students and one day return to FIU to teach.

How have FIU & Graduate faculty helped you achieve your goals?
FIU has definitely become my second home. I completed my undergraduate studies at FIU in Health Sciences and I am currently completing my Masters degree. I also work at FIU, so I consider myself a true panther! I have been extremely lucky to have amazing people that have guided me along my journey. One of the most important people that have seen me grow through the years has been Dr. Helen Cornely, the associate dean at the College of Nursing and Health Sciences. Besides being my supervisor, she has truly been a great role model for me, and is the faculty advisor for my group PHCPI. The spark that got me thinking about the importance of advocacy for my community was my professor for Health Policy in the Masters Program, Marisel Losa. She has inspired me, and supported my goals by linking me to great people. Dr. Vukosava Pekovic and Dr. Donna Davis at the Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work have helped me and pushed me to think about how I can be a better public health professional. They have supported every single activity and idea I have had for students. I also want to take this opportunity to thank Isa Ferradas who is my immediate supervisor at the College of Nursing and Health Sciences. She has been more than a mentor to me and has guided me through my years at FIU. I am extremely thankful for all the opportunities FIU has given me and hope to one day come back and do the same.

What is your most memorable experience as a graduate student at FIU?
My most memorable experience has been working with great public health students as president of the Stempel Public Health Association. I have made lasting friendships and met lifelong mentors. I enjoyed planning every event for our students and being that "link" for them. Providing them with professional development opportunities, showing them the work that I do, and encouraging others to take action if they have an initiative.


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