Dr. Natalie Hernandez earns Health Policy Leadership Fellowship
Natalie D. Hernandez, MPH, PhD, is the recipient of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute’s Health Policy Leadership Fellowship. Named after former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, the fellowship provides postdoctoral professionals with knowledge, experiences, and skills needed to prepare them for leadership roles in promoting and implementing policies and practices to reduce and ultimately eliminate disparities in health. The Institute and Fellowship are housed at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta.
Before arriving at USF, Hernandez earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Stony Brook University and a master of public health degree from Emory University in behavioral science and health education.
“I love that public health is diverse and collaborative,” said Hernandez. “Public health has a role in helping to empower communities and reshape institutions to address conditions that impact our health.”
As a doctoral student in the USF College of Public Health, Hernandez vowed to passionately solve problems and create conditions that allow every person the universal right to health and well-being. She accomplished this feat by becoming fully engaged at every level of the profession.
In the Department of Community and Family Health, Hernandez served on the research and community engagement committees, and was a member of the Collaborative for Research Understanding Sexual Health. She also shared her time and talents with groups like the Maternal and Child Health Student Organization, Graduate Assistants United, and Public Health Student Association. Recognizing the value of connecting with like-minded practitioners, Hernandez joined and often presented at meetings associated with the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, American Public Health Association, and the Association of Teachers of Maternal and Child Health.
“My experience at USF was a truly incredible one,” said Hernandez. “I worked with wonderful faculty, was granted amazing opportunities including the USF Maternal and Child Health Leadership Traineeship, MCH Epidemiology Traineeship, and the Greg Alexander Award, and met friends and colleagues for life!”
For some students, the road to a PhD can be a grueling and humbling experience.
“There were many challenges I had to overcome during my time at USF,” said Hernandez. “These included financial, personal, and relational challenges. Some were more difficult than others to overcome, but it was these challenges that defined me as a leader and pushed me more to earn my PhD.”
When the journey became arduous, Hernandez allowed herself to become distracted. On some days cooking and reading provided a needed refuge, while other days called for the physical exertion that could only be satisfied by running and kickboxing.
In hindsight, her challenges evolved into opportunities that enhanced her character and made Dr. Hernandez stronger. The end result was a successful dissertation defense titled, “An Exploration of the Meaning and Consequences of Unintended Pregnancy among Latina Cultural Subgroups: Social, Cultural, Structural, Historical and Political Influences.”
“Challenges are invitations to rise to another level, to test yourself and improve in the process, to show that you can accomplish something that may seem difficult, or even impossible.”
Mission accomplished, Dr. Hernandez.
Photo and story by Natalie D. Preston, USF College of Public Health