Student Body President Primed For Public Health Career

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As the outgoing president of Associated Students of Dominican University (ASDU), Global Public Health (GPH) major Jennifer Borromeo ’23 is now reflecting on a four-year experience of connecting with faculty mentors, making lifelong friends through campus clubs, connecting with the Marin County community, and growing as a student by adding minors in new disciplines that interested her. 

Jennifer leaves Dominican well prepared for a successful career in public health, which begins this summer with a paid internship at the Summer HIV/AIDS Research Program (SHARP) based at San Francisco Department of Public Health and UCSF. Jennifer picked Dominican over several larger colleges because it was similar in size to her high school with a big sense of community. She recognized that Dominican would offer her opportunities to grow both as a student and an advocate.

 “Had I gone to a bigger school, I wouldn’t have gained the professional development skills I have now. I wouldn’t have been able to carry myself so confidently, academically, and professionally,” she says. “I wanted to focus on my academics and on building my future career.  A lot of the things that I was a part of happened naturally and I don’t think that would have happened if I had gone to a big school. I enjoy being able to connect with my professors at Dominican and other faculty members personally without hesitation when advocating for myself.”

Jennifer discovered Dominican at an admissions information table during a college fair at her high school, Raoul Wallenberg HS in San Francisco. Soon after she learned more about Dominican from a friend who had been a student-athlete with the Penguins. Then, when Jennifer joined an AVID trip to tour the San Rafael campus, it sealed the deal.

Dominican checked the boxes. Jennifer declared Global Public Health as her major because she was – and still is – considering a track in Physician Assistant Studies.

“I knew I wanted to do something in the health field, but I wanted to do more of a clinical facing role at first,” Jennifer says.  Jennifer added minors in biological sciences and health humanities as a freshman, then took a class that addressed social determinants of health which captivated her.

“It’s a more well-rounded approach to healthcare. What are the risk factors? What influences health, like race, ethnicity, income, and even where you live?” Jennifer says. “Coming from a first-generation and low-income background I saw the health impacts it had on my family and my community. To be able to academically articulate and examine evidence about the social determinants and the “Why?” was really interesting.”

Another influence in Jennifer’s career aspirations was her advisor and GPH professor Dr. Michaela George in the School of Health and Natural Sciences. It was Dr. George who advised Jennifer to focus on  fields of study that she was passionate about and who recommended that Jennifer pursue the internship with SHARP.

“She’s such a strong and powerful woman, and so caring. She pushed me hard,” Jennifer says. “She’s the person who questioned and challenged me as to why I wanted a clinical facing job versus staying in public health. She helped me play toward my strong suits. She showed me where my strengths were.”

“Jennifer is one of those students I will always remember. She is one of a kind – involved, confident, intelligent, kind. She has pride in her class and in her major. She works very hard. She balances her life with a maturity that is way beyond her years,” Dr. George says. “I have no doubt that she will succeed in life. I just hope she will invite me along so I can revel in her success.”

Keeping up with Jennifer may be challenging. She has been involved in campus activities and activism in her four years at Dominican, starting with her first semester when she joined the Kapamilya club “to connect with social groups and really connect with my culture.” Jennifer participated in the Friendship Games as a freshman then evolved into helping organize the annual Pilipino Cultural Night at Dominican with lifelong friends.

Through her Dominican years Jennifer was a student library assistant, tutored as a youth program assistant at The Richmond Neighborhood Center, and became an Orientation coordinator for incoming students. She also served as treasurer of the Alpha Epsilon Delta Kappa chapter at Dominican, but it was with ASDU where she made her mark. Jennifer helped ASDU transition from a programming and event focused organization to an organization that examined policies and addressed topical issues on campus, giving the student body a voice in matters of importance. This year, ASDU helped more than 70 graduating undergraduate students experiencing financial difficulties receive their commencement regalia, free of charge. The board continues to bridge the campus community through monthly forums with campus stakeholders, called Campus Connect. 

“ASDU provided me with more balance and helped me get professional development skills and strong networking skills as well,” says Jennifer, who will deliver the senior class address at Commencement on May 13.  “Taking what I knew about student government and my advocacy work in high school and bringing that into higher education.” 

Last spring Jennifer had a community engaged learning opportunity at The Spahr Center and involved herself in harm reduction outreach. That role led to another opportunity as a peer wellness center volunteer at Richmond Area Multi Services (RAMS). Those two positions gave Jennifer a deeper understanding and new perspective on harm reduction, drug abuse, and the homeless, and inspired Jennifer’s senior capstone project on mental health services – entitled “Occupational Fulfillment & Satisfaction of Peer Counselors at Richmond Area Multi Services” – in collaboration with RAMS. It also caused Jennifer to rethink her future and where she can make the greatest impact as a postgraduate. She has considered full-time jobs but is eager to dive into her summer internship with SHARP first before figuring out her next move.

“I’ve learned that it’s OK not to know. I’ve learned that the best outcomes in one’s life kind of take you around a couple of times. You have these experiences and opportunities that fall into your lap naturally and work that you naturally gravitate towards,” Jennifer says. “I guess now, after my internship with SHARP, I hope to work full time within public health, hopefully in the Bay Area. I wanted to take some time to connect and see what I want out of public health and what I want to do directly before I invest in a master’s degree in public health or PA school. I know regardless, I want to stay in health care, but I’m trying to find where I fit in.”

The SHARP internship, which Jennifer calls “an amazing opportunity,” will allow her to learn more about harm reduction, substance abuse, and HIV surveillance. It is a mentorship that will pair her with a public health professional, whether it’s a UCSF doctor or Department of Health professional. Jennifer’s goal is to gain knowledge and experience through the internship, which runs from June to August, before continuing to follow her passion.

“I don’t think I have yet closed any doors to my interests or cut myself short. That’s why I chose public health. It’s everywhere. I love to have the ability to know that I’m never going to start learning. Overall, I just want to be in a place like where I never stop learning and actually enjoy what I do.”

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