ASU grad hopes to decrease disparities in public health

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2019 commencement.

Lucia Garcia used to think that a career in the health field meant being a clinician. She graduated this week from Arizona State University’s College of Health Solutions with a degree in public health, a minor in Spanish and the knowledge and know-how to take full advantage of the many career paths a degree in her chosen discipline can offer.

Garcia has been involved and connected in public health outside of class, including as a student manager for the Sun Devil Fitness Complex at ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus, where she concentrated on sports and adaptive programming.

“I have always been interested in fitness and wellness, and I wanted to work in an environment that had those same values as well,” she said.

“I love my coworkers, the working environment, the events we put on at the gym and the culture that the work environment encompasses. The facility is beautiful, but more so, the professional staff and my co-workers are all so supportive of one another, which I love and will miss the most!”

Garcia said she now has a direction for her career thanks to attending ASU and said she eventually wants to work in either hospital administration, a government entity or a nonprofit agency to help decrease health disparities between populations.

She spoke with ASU Now about where her public health journey is taking her next and the lessons she’s learned along the way.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: When I was in my ASU 101 class during my freshman year, we discussed at large what public health was. A large component of the field revolves around looking at prevention efforts to deter the onset of health problems, but it also focuses on taking a holistic/big-picture approach when thinking about solutions to health disparities.

It led me to the realization that this method of thinking would allow me to create the most long-term solutions for all in the health care field. Through this class I realized that I wanted to dedicate my time to studying public health.

Q: What extracurricular activities were you involved with while at ASU?

A: I was involved in a variety of organizations throughout my four years at ASU!

I was the president and one of the co-founders of the Public Health Student Association. I worked at New Student Orientation to welcome incoming freshmen to the university for four years. I am a member of the leadership program of the Next Generation Service Corps. I worked on a research project with a doctoral student, which is pending publishing currently, and I worked at the Sun Devil Fitness Complex for three years. Additionally, I completed internships at the Phoenix Symphony, WIC, Nutrition Alliance and Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: I was surprised to learn all the avenues a health care degree could lead someone to. I used to think that the only route for someone in the health care field was to receive clinical training and become a doctor or a nurse.

But all my classes emphasized that there was such a vast array of opportunities out there to become involved in the health care system. It helped me discover that I want to work in either hospital administration or for a government entity or nonprofit agency to help decrease health disparities between populations.

I now have a direction for my career, and the College of Health Solutions really helped cultivate that, as I am sure it did for many other students!

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I wanted to stay in state for my undergraduate degree, and I knew ASU had the innovative College of Health Solutions that I wanted to join.

In addition to the educational aspect, I knew I wanted to attend football and basketball games and become a Sun Devil!

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Professor Lauren Savaglio taught me to always stay curious and to always step up and ask for help, whether in classes or in life.

She taught me to also take advantage of all opportunities and to really go out of my comfort zone and try new things and experiences. I also learned from her different study habits, and she always emphasized that I should stay calm and take time to relax when I am stressed. She has been my mentor throughout my time at ASU, and I am eternally grateful for her guidance!

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Work hard and play hard! Studying and striving for a high GPA is important, but more than that, it is important to stay involved and take advantage of all the experiences ASU has to offer.

I wish I would have attended more sporting events and fun events put on by my college and school, so make sure to continue to stay involved!

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: My favorite spot on campus is the top of Sun Devil Fitness Complex Downtown at the rooftop pool. It is a very relaxing spot to overlook the city, and I always feel calmer when I am up there!

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I will be attending UCLA in the fall to pursue my master’s in public health with a concentration in policy and management. I am so excited to become a Bruin but will always be a Sun Devil at heart!

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would use the $40 million to reduce health disparities globally and within the United States. I would try to create new prevention and education initiatives for some of the top and most deadly health problems, such as the chronic diseases of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

I would also work on efforts to provide everyone, especially those who are in a disadvantaged position, the opportunity to receive necessary health care services at an affordable cost.

Written by Sun Devil Storyteller Holly Bernstein, EOSS Marketing