When we think of heroes, we often think of Marvel comic characters or celebrities who have gained notoriety and fame. However, in the field of public health, heroes are more often than not found in local communities working toward a better future.
That is exactly where Dr. Natalie Hernandez, a graduate of the USF COPH doctor of philosophy program and an assistant professor of community health and preventive medicine at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, can be found. She educates communities in public health measures and empowers young women and minorities to become future leaders as well.
Rolling Out, a digital media company focused on urban lifestyle, recently honored Hernandez, who is of Puerto Rican descent and a native of New York City’s South Bronx, with a Sisters with Superpowers award. Hernandez was recognized for her public health education and leadership contributions in the Atlanta area.
After attending college at Stony Brook University in New York and receiving an MPH From Emory University in Atlanta, Hernandez came to USF to pursue a PhD in public health. Hernandez credits her time at USF for preparing her to become a leader who takes on challenges within her community.
Hernandez, who graduated the COPH in 2013, became interested in community health while completing her PhD.
“Although it was a PhD program, I loved the fact that the COPH trained me in community health and ensured that what we learned was also applicable to real life in real communities,” said Hernandez.
Hernandez also points to her fellow COPH students as big influences in helping her develop leadership skills in diverse environments, and to deal with the challenges that may come her way.
“My favorite memories of my time [at the COPH] were my interactions with other PhD students in my cohort,” said Hernandez. “We were very diverse and from many different places. My cohort shared with me a very challenging and developmental part of my life. I developed amazing friendships I’ll never forget.”
Hernandez has racked up many awards and honors throughout her career, with the Sisters with Superpowers award being the most recent.
“I hope to become an internationally renowned researcher and educator who continues to work within the community and empower students who have a similar background and goals as myself,” said Hernandez.
What did you dream of becoming when you were young?
A Broadway star
Where might we find you on the weekends?
At a festival or doing any activity with my husband and kids
What was the last book you read?
“The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Díaz
What superpower would you like to have?
The ability to fly
What is your all-time favorite movie?
There are too many to think of one
Story by Cody Brown, USF College of Public Health