Zena Alhija graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County with a degree in health administration and policy with a minor in psychology and sociology. After graduation, she worked at Johns Hopkins University, School of Medicine in the Chronic Disease Informatics Program (CDIP) and at several nonprofit public health organizations including the American Heart Association, the National Association for Public Health Systems and Information Systems and CURA health strategies. Ms. Alhija is in her second year of the MPH program in Public Health Practice and Policy at the SPH and also works as a graduate assistant with the School of Public Health's communication team.

In one sentence, what is public health to you?

Public health is the study of the health and well-being of our communities.

What inspired you to study public health?  

I am very passionate about helping people and I hope to help establish and amend public health infrastructures in developing countries in the Middle East. Currently, the systems in place are very weak and don't provide basic public health programs, such as child seat belt laws or the implementation of tobacco use prevention strategies. I'm looking to advance the ideas of prevention and living a healthy lifestyle. In addition, I would like to promote health education in countries that have suffered from external issues such as corruption, invasions and civil war. 

What do you think is the biggest challenge that the public health field should be focusing on?

I think the biggest challenge of public health today is the lack of focus on prevention and the fact that health is still regarded as a privilege and not a right.

Why did you choose public health at UMD?

I chose UMD because of its diversity and reputation. The UMD School of Public Health is also accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health, a big deciding factor for me. 

Why did you select the MPH in Public Health Practice and Policy degree program?

When I worked at Johns Hopkins, I provided education to patients on their diseases via an electronic format, before taking a position as a program coordinator at a nonprofit public health organization that focused on disaster-related mortality projects and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Environmental Public Health Tracking Network (EPHTN). While holding that position, I was able to start the online MPH in Public Health Practice and Policy program at SPH. The MPH-PHPP program allowed me to gain work experience, while at the same time pursuing my graduate degree, which was very important to me. 

How has your degree program at UMD’s School of Public Health shaped your career goals?

I am learning a lot as I advance through my program and meeting great people on the way. The connections you make are crucial, as they are very helpful in leading you on the path to success. 

What person or experience had the greatest impact on you during your degree program?

So far, my greatest experience was successfully being able to coordinate a six person project through an online class! It was one of the most difficult tasks to do, but I learned so much about leadership and teamwork!