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Sheena Thakkar, Public Health ’17

Student Spotlight: Sheena Thakkar, Public Health

  • As a young girl, Sheena Thakkar, Public Health, had an eye-opening experience in a village in Gujarat, India.

    Sheena and her family were visiting the area, which had recently been devastated by an earthquake, to contribute to restoration efforts. They brought much needed supplies for the local school, which had been destroyed.

    “The excitement in the community that this brought about was easily visible, but I really felt the gratitude when a little girl ran to hug me,” remembers Sheena. “I looked at her in shock as she was my age, but looked different – no shoes, and dusty clothes.”

    In this moment, Sheena was struck by the girl’s continued sense of positivity, and was acutely aware of the privilege associated with her own access to education and resources.

    “I stared at her joyful self and wondered why she didn’t have as much as I did and how she was so happy with such a small gift,” said Sheena. “With the supplies we had brought, this girl and many others would now be able to learn how to read and write, something I was privileged to have for years.”

    For Sheena, that brief, shared moment with a young girl in Gujarat, India led to a big realization about her life’s dedication.

    “This experience demonstrated the impact of empowering a local community, and single-handedly convinced me of what I wanted to dedicate my life to: empowering global communities and working passionately to better public health,” said Sheena.

    Now a student in the Bachelor of Science in Public Health program at MCPHS, Sheena is gaining the knowledge and skills she will need in her future career as a public health specialist.

    Sheena is also pursuing a minor in Healthcare Business and is on the Pre-Law Track, giving her the educational background she will need to pursue a future in research and policy work.

    “My dedication and passion for research and policy work has driven me to work in the field at the intersection between global health and health policy – an area where I can make a difference through legislative work for non-profit organizations around the world,” said Sheena.

    She plans to continue her education by earning a Master of Public Health. “I intend to engage in innovative research and training on improving health service systems to reduce health risks around the world,” said Sheena. “I will use my new knowledge and experience to make a difference by working between organizations and legislative bodies to eliminate healthcare disparities and improve healthcare policy.”

    Sheena has identified a critical need to address the gaps between organizations and policy makers. And as a future public health professional with a background in policy, she plans to bridge that gap through advocacy. Among the topics of interest to Sheena are women's reproductive rights, access to healthcare and insurance, as well as increased funding for research.

    For Sheena, the field of public health represents an exciting opportunity to impact not only the health of individuals, but the overall health of the community.

    “What excites me most about the field of public health is the impact it has on communities,” said Sheena. “With public health, instead of treating one patient at a time, we strive to treat communities at a time.”

    According to Sheena, having a solid foundation in public health is important for all healthcare professionals, regardless of specialty.

    “I cannot stress how important it is for healthcare professionals to understand the significance of preventative care because that is the other aspect that will save an individual's life,” said Sheena. “If healthcare professionals focused more on preventative care, they would see less patients in the hospital. It is essential they learn about socioeconomic factors that affect patients of all backgrounds.”

    For those interested in pursuing a future in public health, Sheena recommends getting hands-on experience. Because the field of public health covers such a diverse range of specialties, getting a glimpse of an area of focus can be extremely beneficial, she explained. “Don't be afraid to get out there and experience different things,” said Sheena. “Whether you like it or not, it will definitely give you some direction of where you want to go in life and what your passions truly are.”

    As Sheena works to make her future in public health a reality, she remembers the small girl she met in Gujarat, India and draws inspiration from a shared moment.

    “I remember the warm hug from that little girl every time I think I have made an impact in someone’s life,” said Sheena. “It reminds me of why I am in this field and how I would like to further my education. I use it as a reminder to myself that I want to dedicate my life to helping and improving the health of others.”