COPH doctoral student plans to use degrees to benefit needy communities

| Academic & Student Affairs, CFH, Featured News, Global Health, Monday Letter, Our People, Students

The definition of public health differs from person to person.  To some, the study concerns the overall population’s health.  To others, it focuses on promoting a healthy lifestyle.  To fourth-year PhD student Pamela Guevara, public health offers an opportunity to reach out to the sometimes overlooked communities in today’s world.

“I truly want to reach communities in need, more specifically Hispanic/Latino families, and be able to conduct research to improve the health and wellbeing of this underserved and vulnerable population,” she said.

Pamela Guevara Birriel

Guevara’s focus is clearly reflected in her dissertation, titled “The Nutritional Impact of Breast Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment on Hispanic Women and Their Families’ Food Practices.”

The Venezuela native spent most of her life living in Tampa. She completed her undergraduate studies at Florida State University in 2008.  After earning her bachelor’s degree in exercise science, Guevara moved back to Tampa to continue her studies.  Although the opportunity to return to Tampa was a bonus, location was not the deciding factor in her decision.

“The range of expertise from the faculty at USF’s COPH is really what drew me to pursuing my graduate degrees from the Department of Global Health, and now the Department of Community and Family Health,” Guevara said.

In 2010, she completed her MPH degree in global health practice and earned a graduate certificate in disaster management.  Guevara is pursuing her PhD in community and family health.

With just a glance at her resume, anyone can see Guevara has no shortage of work ethic.  Since joining the USF Bulls family, Guevara has held numerous leadership positions throughout her academic journey.  While completing her master’s in 2009 and 2010, Guevara served as secretary for the Public Health Association, as well as the Global Health Student Association.  As a doctoral student, she served as the 2012-13 vice president of the Eta Sigma Gamma Honor Society, Delta Kappa Chapter, at COPH.

Despite the added pressure of planning her wedding, Guevara continued to add onto her resume this academic year, including CFH student representative for COPH’s Transforming the MPH Degree Program Overarching Workgroup.  Additionally, she works as a graduate research associate as project coordinator for the Florida Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program Evaluation.

“I characterize my time at USF’s COPH as time well spent,” said Guevara.  “I really have a passion for further education, and I would recommend pursuing a graduate degree at USF to anybody who asks.”

Guevara received the Sam Bell Endowed Scholarship from COPH in March of 2013.  She believes that during her time at the university, COPH has offered her continuous opportunities, as well as a stellar support system.

“Sharing experiences with the other students within my 2011 doctoral cohort has really been the greatest support system that I found,” she said.

Outside of her academic pursuits, Guevara enjoys traveling and attending Crossfit with husband Gabriel Birriel.  The two met during Guevara’s time at FSU in 2004, and were married Oct. 25, 2014.  Birriel is a general engineer with James A. Haley Veteran’s Hospital.

Mr. and Mrs. Gabriel Birriel celebrated their nuptials at the Vinoy Renaissance Resort & Golf Club in St. Petersburg.

Mr. and Mrs. Gabriel Birriel celebrated their nuptials at the Vinoy Renaissance Resort & Golf Club in St. Petersburg.

Although Guevara is not quite finished with her academic pursuits, she already has amassed a wealth of experience and knowledge during her time with COPH, and is poised to shine a light on the underserved populations in today’s world.

Story by Shelby Bourgeois, College of Public Health writing intern. Photos courtesy of Pamela Guevara Birriel.