Anais Cotillas, MPH 2016

HIV Health Educator, Center on Halsted

Anais Cotillas

What do you enjoy most about your current job?

What I like most is that I can utilize this front-line, in the field experience to fuel my ideas regarding bigger picture issues. I feel that it is crucial to understand the work that is done directly with the community to be able to run a program or evaluate one. I feel that working one-on-one with clients now will fuel me in future positions that involve more behind the scenes work, and will allow me to more accurately and effectively implement interventions and disseminate information. It has also opened my eyes immensely to understanding the backgrounds of others and working efficiently with a big team.

What inspired you to pursue an MPH degree?

I began my college career with the intention of pursuing medicine because of my interest in science and passion for psychology. However, as I took more classes and read more about medicine, I came to the realization that the healthcare system often consisted of "putting a Band-Aid on the problem" or treating it once it had already progressed and was irreversible. What could have been done to prevent this from happening? During my first internship doing housing case management, I discussed this with my supervisor and mentor who then taught me about the field of public health. I then decided to pursue a dual degree in Psychology and Community Health as an undergraduate, which then led me to my MPH.

What did you choose Illinois for your MPH?

As an undergraduate Illinois student in the College of Applied Health Sciences, I learned about the BS-MPH program. The BS-MPH program was an opportunity that would only come around once, and it would allow me to leave UIUC with 3 degrees in a little over 5 years. It was an opportunity I couldn't pass up!

How did your Illinois MPH degree help prepare you to work in the field?

I think that my MPH has allowed me to further hone my skills as a big picture thinker. It has taught me to see an individual-level issue and see all of the biopsychosocial and environmental factors that contributed to it. Now, when I am with my clients, I can utilize this more holistic perspective

What advice do you have for current students?

I would advise current students to save their notes. I have found myself looking for information on certain subjects and finding gaps in what I had saved from class. You never know when those PowerPoints might come in handy!

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