Written by Ageline Sahagun, Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program alumna
MP stands for Marianas Pacific, a region in the world in which I was born and raised. A region that, just recently, was the center of international political exchange. It’s a little disheartening to hear, but Guam and the Marianas has endured a history of war and turmoil. They are a resilient people, and thankfully, nothing outrageous has happened so far. This connection to my people and my heritage has shaped me into who I am – an advocate and foot soldier – in a more inconspicuous campaign: health.
Today, Pacific Islanders face one of the highest prevalence and incidence rates in diabetes and cardiovascular disease. However, I feel that the lack of specific research on these subset populations will continue to cause the most harm. Without data, intervention programs and policy change will be difficult to elicit. I feel that it is my duty to fill that niche.
It is world class institutions like Washington University in St. Louis that recruit diverse individuals to help bring more representation in research. My experience at WashU allowed me to learn more about research methods and techniques, especially when studying underserved communities. I consider my mentor, Dr. Presti, an inspiration and driving force in my journey of becoming a physician-scientist. In just one summer, I realized the scale to which research can be applied and influence change.
And that brings me to where I am now, Maryland, at another world class institution: Johns Hopkins. Fun fact! There are actually two more alumni from the 2016 cohort here: Megan, who has just started medical school, and Hai Pham, who’s working on her Masters in Nursing. I believe that the program chooses individuals with a sincere dedication to science and global health, so it is no surprise that we all have crossed paths again.
I just finished my lab rotations and have chosen to do translational research studying metabolism and obesity. Although translational work is on other side of the research wheel, I understand that public health and clinical research will need to be at the forefront to make an immediate impact on Pacific Islander health. It is with this mindset that I continue to indulge myself in opportunity; in hopes that one day, MD won’t just be at the end of an address, but also at the end of my name.