Daisy Le PhD '16 is now a tenure-track assistant professor in the policy, populations and systems department at the George Washington University School of Nursing.
She earned her dual master degrees in Asian American Studies (MA) and Public Health (MPH) from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), with a concentration in community health sciences and specializations in global health, health promotion and health education. After completing her doctorate degree in behavioral and community health at the University of Maryland, Daisy did a postdoctoral fellowship with the department of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Now, Daisy specializes in community-engaged cancer prevention and health disparities research at George Washington University. Her specific focuses are the sociocultural determinants of health and community-based approaches that target minority, low-income, and underserved populations using mobile health technology. Daisy is also currently teaching a course on population health.
In one sentence, what is public health to you?
For me, it is the science and the art of optimizing health and wellness in a systematic and societal way, through a transdisciplinary approach. It’s about preventing disease and prolonging life.
What inspired you to study public health?
I grew up in San Francisco and I’m a first generation daughter of refugee parents. We had essentially nothing, unemployment was high, my parents didn’t understand how to navigate the healthcare system. It drove me to want to do social-related work.
I didn’t start out in the hard sciences-- I’m a social scientist by training. My background in ethnic studies really helped me to understand individual stories, give them a voice and help people approach health outcomes for themselves.
What do you think is the biggest challenge that the public health field should be focusing on?
Health disparities and cancer prevention. For us, right now, we are trying to figure out how to meet the rising demands of cost effective quality care through technological innovation and digital health.
Why did you choose public health at UMD?
I had an unplanned, information interview with Professor Cheryl Holt Knott to get to know her and her work. Our conversation that day really got me looking into UMD, because her background and research were applicable to where I was coming from. She incorporates culture into her research, and does community based work as well. It was a really good match.
Cheryl was personable even when I hadn’t applied to the program yet. She was honest about her interactions with me and really kept me engaged. The fact that she was like that with someone she had just met showed me that she would be a solid, supportive mentor that would push me.
How did your Ph.D. program shape your career goals?
Experiential learning like hands-on applications, constantly being in the field, and negotiating relationships with community members really helped to shape my ability to hear and understand what goes on in a community, and what motivates them.
What person or experience had the greatest impact on you during your program?
Definitely Cheryl. Although our backgrounds were different, she trained me to be a leader. Whether she intended to or not, it happened through research, manuscript writing and applying my course work.