Dhaani Dhaani ’23 MPH and Mabintou Darboe ’22 MPH are passionate about advocating for public health, healthcare equity, and care accessibility. They have earned scholarships from the Society of Public Health Education that will enable them to continue building their advocacy skills.
September 30, 2021
When Dhaani Dhaani ’23 MPH was completing an internship as an undergraduate student in India, she visited poor neighborhoods in New Delhi, educating people about topics such as personal hygiene, sex education, and domestic violence. Her subsequent work as a volunteer physician, helping to promote cancer awareness and prevention, also fueled her passion for community and social services.
Dhaani, who earned an MD in homeopathy while in India, is especially passionate about advocating for sexual assault prevention, another issue that, she says, is prevalent in India. She endeavors to foster education and awareness in order to, she hopes, reduce the number of assaults and prevent victim blaming.
“Sexual assault is an issue that nobody wants to talk about,” she said. “I found there are plenty of reasons behind it, however the unavailability of sex education is one of the main reasons. The visible statistics are the tip of an iceberg. As a doctor, I believe, you are not just responsible for treating or prescribing medicines for corporeal complaints. You must also treat and heal the social and psychological pain of a person through your compassion and love.”
Dhaani’s commitment to public health led to her being recognized by the Society of Public Health Education (SOPHE). She received a 21st Century Student Scholarship for SOPHE’s 2021 Virtual Advocacy Summit that will enable her to continue to learn how to best advocate for the health-related issues she is passionate about – an opportunity that she calls a “dream come true.”
“I am overwhelmingly happy, and the scholarship means a lot to me,” said Dhaani, who is also involved in helping to address domestic violence, the stigma of HIV, and discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community. “Receiving this scholarship is incredibly special. I am looking forward to acquiring knowledge about public health issues in the United States. Moreover, the summit would also be a rewarding opportunity for me to be a part of a diverse group of public health professionals working with the community.”
‘Our students are committed to becoming changemakers’
Dhaani’s classmate Mabintou Darboe ’22 MPH also earned a scholarship to attend SOPHE’s 2021 Virtual Advocacy Summit. A member of the University’s Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) student ambassadors program, Darboe is passionate about advocating for maternal and child health, as well as healthcare accessibility. She is looking forward to opportunities to learn more about the social determinants of health and health equity, as well as equity-focused advocacy in the classroom.
“I hope to expand my understanding of the social issues that affect the health of marginalized communities and the possible solutions to alleviate the suffering caused by the social determinants of health,” she said. “As a JEDI ambassador, I hope it will help me in my goal to address racism. I am also hoping to share the advocacy-related information that I will learn with my professors to help students build advocacy skills that confront racist policies in their communities. This is an essential and much-needed component of population health.”
Dhaani’s and Darboe’s professor, Alvin Tran, Sc.D., MPH, says he looks forward to the exciting and meaningful opportunities they will have.
“Many of our MPH students chose to study at the University of New Haven School of Health Sciences to tackle some of the most pressing public health issues,” said Dr. Tran, assistant provost for diversity, equity, and inclusion as well as interim director of the University’s Master of Public Health program. “From sexual assault prevention and increasing access to culturally competent healthcare to combating the spread of disinformation and misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic, our students are committed to becoming changemakers in this highly demanding and impactful field.
“Receiving this scholarship will allow our students to develop essential skills to become effective health communicators and advocates,” continued Dr. Tran, who created the University’s JEDI program. “They will learn to engage in critical discussions around health issues with community stakeholders, including policymakers and leaders of nonprofit health organizations. If there’s one thing the ongoing pandemic has taught us as a society, it is that communicating accurate public health information is essential to keeping us all safe. Mabintou and Dhaani have an incredible opportunity ahead of them.”
‘This opportunity will enable me to stay connected’
Darboe, who hopes to become a physician, is especially excited to network and learn from other students and advocacy professionals. She looks forward to continuing to develop her advocacy skills – something that, she says, will help her throughout her career.
“I want to incorporate my public health experience to approach patient care from a holistic perspective,” she said. “I want to address the social determinants of health and research innovative ways to improve the health of my patients in their community. Throughout my public health education at the University, we have been taught the importance of patient advocacy, and this opportunity will prepare me to become a better advocate for my peers and future patients.”
Dhaani, too, looks forward to drawing on what she will learn at the summit as she continues her education and throughout her career. She plans to pursue a doctorate in behavior and social science or epidemiology.
“I trust this achievement is going to make my admission application strong,” she said. “This opportunity will enable me to stay connected with the Society of Public Health Education and to stay current with all new public health issues. Furthermore, this is going to enhance my resume.”