Theresa Tellez, Class of 2023 student speaker at the College of Public Health graduation ceremony on May 11, came to Temple to learn how to make a difference in less advantaged communities, like the one where she grew up in Pennsylvania.
“People where I'm from experience inequities in finances, education, health,” she says. “As a child of an immigrant, the ball was never in my court. In high school, there were times I felt my needs were invisible and that I was invisible. I was drawn to Temple because they saw me when no one else did. They understood the complexities that come with my background.”
Tellez will receive her bachelor’s degree in public health, then will continue at Temple to earn her master of public health degree in epidemiology in 2024. She hopes to use that education and experience to address the health disparities that vulnerable populations can experience.
“I knew I was in the right place at Temple when I started learning more and more about how to help people who grew up like I did, people who are unfairly predisposed to social disparities and negative health outcomes,” she says.
Tellez began her studies as a biology major and had thoughts of attending medical school. Then she discovered the broad impact of public health, where her studies have ranged from biostatistics to community-based program planning and health communication.
“I knew focusing on concepts like social determinants of health, cultural competency, sustainability and epidemiology would benefit not only clinical medicine but also allow me to meet people where they're at in terms of improving health outcomes,” she says. She feels medicine and public health are complementary disciplines. “I believe we aren't delivering the best type of healthcare to patients clinically unless we acknowledge and develop treatment plans that address everyone's unique public health circumstances as well.”
Tellez has stayed connected to healthcare with internship work as a research assistant in the Temple University Kidney Cancer Prevention Research Program and as a research assistant in the Clinical Nursing Department of the University of Pennsylvania.
She plans to deliver a celebratory speech at commencement.
“I talk about perseverance, resilience, and our duty to be noble as public health professionals,” she says. “I talk about what it felt like to feel low points, navigating them, and giving ourselves kindness and grace throughout this new transition in our lives. And I discuss the importance of using our Temple-earned skills to create equitable environments for the communities that aided us in getting to this monumental point in our lives.”