- Paying it Forward
Growing up in Texas with parents originally from Mexico, Lupita Galvan Tinoco never met anyone with a public health degree. She discovered her future vocation after volunteering for a hospital program that connected people with resources outside the traditional definition of health care, like food and housing.
“I did not know that my dream job existed,” said Tinoco, MPH ’23. The experience led her to the Yale School of Public Health, where she is pursuing a master’s degree with a U.S. health justice concentration. Still a year away from graduation, Tinoco is already thinking about her involvement as a YSPH alumna and role model for prospective students.
YSPH alumni are invaluable partners with the school who raise money for financial aid, help students make career connections, address cultural barriers, and more. For Tinoco, alumni service is a way of sharing her passion for public health with others.
A member of the YSPH Emerging Majority Student Association (EMSA) Executive Board, Tinoco collaborates with alumni on the Emerging Majority Affairs Committee (EMAC). “It was encouraging to think that there was a group concerned about what [students] needed before we even stepped onto campus,” she said.
EMAC is a committee of the Association of Yale Alumni in Public Health (AYAPH) that is dedicated to advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) within YSPH’s student and alumni communities. AYAPH and EMAC’s commitment to DEIB was recognized in 2019 when they were honored with the Yale Alumni Association Board of Governors Excellence Award.
EMAC Chair Modupeore “Ore” Shenbanjo Henriques, MPH ’16, is a YSPH alumnus who is paying it forward. Henriques works directly with the school’s administration to make sure the school is doing all it can to advance DEIB. For example, EMAC championed adding questions like “Have you experienced microaggressions?” to student surveys that traditionally focused solely on academics. EMAC and EMSA also organize panels where students have an opportunity to hear from alumni about their experiences.
“There’s always that elephant in the room,” Henriques said. “I’m a Black woman, so sometimes I do experience bias and I have to figure out, ‘How can I challenge that in a way that helps the next person?’” Tinoco and Henriques hope to sponsor more alumni panels for students during the 2022–23 school year.
Alumni volunteers also play a crucial role in building YSPH’s annual Alumni Fund, which supports student aid. Elaine Anderson, MPH ’76, and Robert Steele, MPH ’71, PhD ’75, have both served as alumni volunteers in many roles. Each gave up serving as a class agent to become co-chairs of the Alumni Fund.
More than 65 alumni currently serve as class agents, helping classmates stay in touch with each other and the school. This, in turn, often motivates alumni to contribute to the Alumni Fund. Together, Anderson and Steele have spent more than half a century as class agents. Both recognize that robust financial aid is key to recruiting an excellent and diverse group of students.
“I am embarrassed to ask people for money normally and shy away from getting involved in any fundraising for other organizations,” said Anderson, who served as YSPH’s director of community, alumni, and special studies for 30 years. “But for the School of Public Health, it totally makes sense, and I’ve never felt there was something that I had to apologize for.”
Steele earned his MPH and doctorate (psychology) from Yale without incurring debt. He believes supporting students is both a way of paying it forward and making an investment that keeps on giving.
YSPH’s Alumni Engagement Program is another way for alumni to help the generations of students behind them. Alumni who participate in the Alumni Engagement Program mentor graduates in a variety of ways, such as helping them draft cover letters and prepare for job interviews. The alumni-student connections made through the program often last far beyond the academic year.
Douglas Spivak, MPH ’20, was grateful for the assistance he received from the Alumni Engagement Program when he was a student. Spivak, who wanted to work in hospital administration in Boston, chose YSPH alum Michael Gillespie, MPH ’89, vice president of clinical services at Boston Children’s Hospital, as a mentor. Spivak praised the insight he received from Gillespie, which he said could “only come from a working professional.”
Spivak, who is a senior administrative manager at Massachusetts General Hospital, says he is interested in mentoring students as a new YSPH alum.
Gillespie also praised the Alumni Engagement Program, saying he learns as much from the mentees he works with as they do from him.
Alumni are eager to volunteer, Anderson said, because so many believe YSPH has been foundational to their success and want the school to continue providing students the excellent resources they enjoyed. “Our future students are going to be our legacy,” she said.