75 years of the Fulbright Program: Gabriela Gawlik

In 2021 the Fulbright Program celebrates its 75th anniversary (In Poland, the Program has operated for 62 years). One of the ways in which we are joining this celebration is by presenting 12 stories written by our grantees and alumni that showcase the positive impact of the Program on local and global communities. Each of these stories will reflect the theme of the month. The January theme is “Science, Technology, and Public Health” and our author is Gabriela Gawlik, recipient of Fulbright Graduate Student Award (2019-20 and 2020-21). We encourage you to read her story. More information about the Fulbright Program 75th anniversary could be found at fulbright75.org.

I am a Fulbright grantee from Poland currently enrolled in the Master of Public Health (MPH) program at Idaho State University. Spring 2021 is my last semester in the two-year graduate program at ISU Meridian Campus. After graduation, I plan to lead public health initiatives based on my experience and expert knowledge as a licensed pharmacist and policymaking-oriented public health professional.

During my MPH program at the Department of Community and Public Health, I have been involved in programs that address the problem of cost, quality, and access to health services from multiple perspectives. In my research, I have been using qualitative and quantitative methods to better understand Idaho’s local communities’ perspectives on health. Like other states in Idaho, health disparities are a painful problem that significantly limits access to healthcare services that should be provided in the name of social justice.  

Health behavior change, program planning (dissemination and implementation strategies), leadership and health administration, biostatistics, and epidemiology are examples of MPH courses that enabled me to grow and gain confidence as a public health advocate.

Covid-19 global pandemic described as a Public Health crisis significantly has impacted my activities as a Public Health student. Throughout the summer of 2020, I worked for the Missouri State senator – Lauren Arthur and Mid America Regional Council (MARC) ­- as a policymaking intern responsible for recommending the strategy that would increase access to subsidized childcare services during the pandemic. In December 2020, I coordinated healthcare workers’ (first responders’) screenings prior to their Covid-19 vaccination and provided post-vaccination education about managing possible side effects, according to CDC guidelines. After receiving work authorization from the US Department of State, I am currently working on the lead position to oversee the Covid-19 screenings on the ISU campus for faculty members, staff, and students returning to campus after the Christmas holiday break. Based on this mass testing action’s outcomes, ISU can adjust safety measures on campus and possibly make an informed decision about class format (in-person, hybrid, online) this semester. My final project (master thesis) focuses on Community Health Workers (CHWs) workforce development in Idaho. CHWs are frontline public health practitioners who can effectively address social determinants of health, especially during the Covid-19 crisis.

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