Alumni Spotlight: Taurica Salmon
Taurica Salmon, a recent Master’s in Public Health in Epidemiology graduate, has overcome the hurdles of navigating an academic institution as a first generation student, to now find herself an APHA KP fellow that works in the Clackamas County office of Public Health.
With Salmon’s passion and determination, paired with the supportive mentors the eye opening knowledge she gained in her graduate program, Salmon is empowered to be a leader, a change-maker in public health that supports social justice and health equity.
Q. What attracted you to the field of public health?
A. I grew up in poverty. It was difficult to watch my family do everything they could to stay healthy, but it wasn’t enough. They were constantly stressed navigating hardships and chronic conditions. It wasn’t until I took my first public health class in my undergraduate program that I learned about the social determinants of health. When I learned about the upstream struggles that control and affect our health, it clicked for me. It was fascinating to learn all the different intersections of public health. It gave me such a clear understanding of the world [related to public health]. I later discovered and became passionate about epidemiology and social epidemiology, which motivated me to pursue a masters degree.
Q. Who were your mentors in your graduate program?
A. Dr. Jon Snowden was my advisor, but he was more than my advisor and supervisor. He became an advocate for me and my success in the program, as I balanced going to school and working at the same time. With his encouragement, I participated in a Health Equity Symposium 2020 and we did an antiracism talk together. Dr. Snowden also hired me as a Spanish speaking case investigator.
Dr. Ryan Petteway gave me so much inspiration in learning more about health equity, social justice, and gave guidance on how to advocate for myself. I felt very inspired by him.
Dr. Dawn Richardson was also a great mentor and advocate. I had the chance to work with her through the non-profit organization Familia en Accion in community engagement.
Q. Tell me about the work you did with Dr. Snowden?
A. Before I worked with Dr. Snowden, I was a graduate intern for Providence assisting with covid testing at the drive through stations. It was such hard work and really difficult. During the peak of the covid variants, I would easily walk 30,000 steps a day. I loved doing it, but also experienced burnout. Dr. Snowden hired me as a Spanish speaking case investigator, which allowed me to learn about the other side of case investigation related to covid. I had the chance to work with different counties, to hear about participant experiences, and to be a part of a Dr. Snowden’s team. My work with Dr. Snowden led me to continue working with the OHA as a Travel Epidemiologist for a year. I feel grateful for all the connections I’ve continued to make that lead me to new positions and new experiences in public health.
Q. What is the work you are currently doing as an APHA KP fellow?
A. I am involved with understanding and analyzing proposed bills’ and their impact on the community. I am in the process of developing a tool that will be able to look at bills that are coming up, with a health equity lens, to better understand the health impacts on the populations. I am looking forward to piloting this tool soon to make it accessible for counties to evaluate future bills for years to come. I am also working on developing trauma informed practices in creating tools and training that Clackamas County can use for public health. I am also working with fellow KP fellow Esperanza Zagal, who is currently placed at Kaiser Northwest in hopes to build relationships to collaborate on our shared goals.
Q. Do you have any tips to share with current graduate students interested in applying to the APHA KP fellowship?
A. The application process looks rigorous and intimidating, but I encourage you to gather all your materials and apply. Keep in touch with your recommenders from your MPH program because they serve as a great resource for you time and time again. Continue to cultivate those relationships because they are handy. Keep an updated resume to make it easier to apply to many things in the near future. Talk to fellows or other people who have done this application before. Also reach out to the hiring committee about the application process. They are open to engage any potential fellow about the application process.
Q. Do you have any advice for undergraduate students and graduate students?
A. Higher education is attainable. Even though my family didn’t go to college, they would tell me that no one can take education away from you. If you are passionate about something, you can set those goals and be successful. You have to make connections with people around you [to support you]. In the beginning of my program, I didn’t make as many connections because I was intimidated by everyone around me. I felt like an imposter for being there. I had to get through that and tell myself that I deserve to be here. That pep talk gave me the confidence to make more connections. The faculty also want to help you succeed and there are a lot of resources that are available to you. It’s important to open yourself up and be vulnerable. Ask for help if you need it and be an advocate for yourself. Your colleagues and your professors will be there for you. I wouldn’t be where I am now without opening myself up to making connections. Public health is a small field. You will be working with your teachers, friends, and colleagues in the future, so those connections will continue to be important [beyond your education].
The APHA Kaiser Permanente Community Health Fellowship aims to build a group of diverse, underrepresented public health leaders committed to improving the health of our most vulnerable communities and supporting achieving health equity for all. The fellowship is funded by a grant from Kaiser Permanente National Community Benefit Fund at the East Bay Community Foundation.
Fellows support and lead projects, programs, and partnerships to address upstream determinants of health/social health across Kaiser Permanente-served communities. Critical determinants prioritized by Kaiser Permanente and our partners include housing and homelessness, food security, economic opportunity, and education, racism and related trauma, environmental health and sustainability, and access to healthcare services.