Victory Plaine (Tori), a community health major, was chosen as the student commencement speaker for the December graduating class. She has excelled in all of her courses and remained on the Dean’s List while maintaining a full-time work schedule as a clincial consultant at Clinique. Tori hopes to further her career in community health by working to decrease incidence rates of STD/STIs throughout the state.
What is public health to you?
Public health is overarching health— it’s not one aspect of health. A lot of people don’t even recognize its there, but public health does a lot of ensure the health and safety of others.
Why did you choose to study public health at the University of Maryland?
I’ve always been interested in public health. In high school I was in a biomedical magnet program and my focus in the program was public health. I knew I wanted to go out and help people, but I didn’t want to do anything clinical. I began as a public health major at Hawaii Pacific University, and continued to study public health when I transferred back to Maryland.
Why are you passionate about sexual health?
There is still a stigma around sexual health and we don’t talk about it enough. I think that in this day and age we need to open up about sexual health and realize that our sexual health affects our overall health.
Doing research on sexual health has helped me realize how high the incidence rate of STI/STDs is in Maryland. The incidence rate is going up, even when there are such easy ways to prevent them. We have the education available and the tools to combat it, but people aren’t protecting themselves or taking precautionary measures.
We need to expose people to the facts. This is a big public health problem.
What are your plans after graduation?
I want to work in a health department or at CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] or NIH [National Institutes of Health]. I’d like to work in women’s reproductive health and family planning, and do more work related to these topics. I also hope to work to decrease incidence rates of STI/STDs through preventative education.
What was your greatest acheivement at UMD?
Throughout my time at the University of Maryland, I chose to live off campus and commute over 40 minutes to school every day. I chose to maintain a full-time job while also being a full-time student. And lastly, I prioritized saving money while building my professional future at the same time. Above all else, I am proud to say that I am a first-generation college student.
What is your message to the graduating class?
As the next generation of public health leaders, we must be hardworking and dedicated. Do not compare yourself to others, trust in your own abilities and know that you can achieve anything in your own time.