Samantha Martocci
Samantha Martocci

In one sentence, what is public health to you?

To me, public health is ensuring that all individuals are able to achieve an optimal level of health by eradicating structural barriers. 

What inspired you to study public health?  

I was inspired to study public health after my first semester as a part of the Global Public Health Scholars Program. I had never heard of Public Health before this semester. I was so utterly disturbed at all of the health disparities that exist in the world that I felt compelled to focus my career on eliminating them to the best of my ability. 

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

I think the biggest challenge the public health field should be focusing on is gender inequality. While it has recently become a "hot topic" because of the #MeToo movement, I think that with gender equality we will be able to improve public health in many other areas. 

Why did you choose public health at UMD?

I chose public health at UMD sort of by accident. I ended up at UMD because I wanted a big, diverse school that was near a big city. I was placed into the Global Public Health Scholars Program because the Life Sciences program was already full. Things sort of just fell into place for me! 

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

My experience at UMD has certainly shaped the course of what I want to do. I have had a number of opportunities to do hands on public health work, including going to Honduras with Students Helping Honduras to build schools to help eliminate extreme poverty in the country as well as working to assist a professor in the Department of Epidemiology on her research in HIV/AIDS. My experience has shown me just how exciting and amazing research can be. 

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

I think that the experience that has had the greatest impact on me would have to be my time in Honduras with Students Helping Honduras. This was the first time I was able to work hands-on with a group of people to improve the conditions of their lives. It was amazing and humbling to meet the children who would be attending the school we fundraised for and built. This experience helped me realize how rewarding and worthwhile it is to work for others. I will never forget what one of the fathers told us last year on our last day: "If you're not working for others, you're not working."