Adrian Diogo is a new Community Health Associate at the Quality Institute, where he works on the Mayors Wellness Campaign, and the Healthy Communities Create Healthy Citizens project.
You were in the first graduating class of Public Health at The College of New Jersey. What do you know about how and why that program got started?
The Public Health program at TCNJ was years in the making, and began with the QI’s Chief of Staff, Amanda Melillo, when she graduated from TCNJ as the first self-designed Public Health Major. Public Health began as a minor, but throughout the years more students wanted to pursue Public Health as a degree. The breadth of the Public Health field attracted many students, such as myself, who had a passion to lead change in human health. A committee was created to implement a curriculum for the Public Health major, and, in 2016 the first class of Public Health was created.
You have fluency in Portuguese and Spanish. How does that advance your work in population health?
New Jersey is home to a diverse group of residents from around the world. Jersey City has been cited as the most culturally diverse city in the United States. Often, non-English speaking communities face health challenges that are difficult to overcome because of cultural and linguistic barriers. Being trilingual has afforded me the ability to overcome many of those cultural and linguistic barriers to improving health in multilingual communities. During my internship at the American Heart Association, I was faced with a linguistic barrier while working on a corner store initiative in Trenton. Most of the corner storeowners were Spanish speaking, and I was tasked to collaborate with storeowners to schedule inventory reviews and to present healthier products. Being able to easily communicate with the corner storeowners advanced the initiative.
You gave the Public Health Graduation speech at your graduating class. Can you tell us a bit about what you wanted to share with fellow graduates?
As the first graduating class of Public Health at TCNJ, we all shared a passion to improve the overall health of others. Because the major was official in the beginning of our senior year, we spent the last three years in an era of discovery. For many of us, there was one monumental moment that impassioned us to pursue Public Health with the uncertainty of its status as a major by graduation. As President of the college’s MEDLIFE chapter, I volunteered in mobile health clinics in Peru and Ecuador. The gratitude of the communities that we served was unparalleled to anything I experienced before. From that moment, I knew that I wanted to dedicate my life to improving the health of underserved communities.
Can you tell us about what prompted you to pursue a career in public health?
I have always been interested in the health care field, but my experience as a mobile health clinic volunteer cemented my passion to pursue a career in public health. My later experience as an intern for the American Heart Association and the Princeton Health Department exposed me to the wide array of specializations in public health. As a field of both research and action, public health allows me to apply my abilities in research and fulfill my passion through action.
What special attributes will you bring to the MWC?
Through my experience as an intern and as a recipient of The Andy and Maria Polansky Award for a co-written proposal, “Healthy Foods Initiative,” I have the ability to connect and collaborate with MWC community partners to implement healthy lifestyle programming. Being multilingual will provide the MWC with greater ability to connect with communities facing health challenges because of cultural and linguistic barriers. My passion for public health will serve as a driver to improve and expand the MWC to reach all communities within New Jersey and improve the overall health of residents of our state.