Estefanía Henríquez Luthje (she/her) is a first-year Maternal and Child Health MPH student at the University of Minnesota and a Fulbright Scholar from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. She obtained her medical degree from Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo in 2020 and received a certificate in clinical research at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. For two years, Estefanía worked as a research analyst in the Department of Nutrition of the Ministry of Public Health of the Dominican Republic. In addition to her role as co-editor for MCH Leads, Estefanía serves as Executive Board Member for UMN’s Maternal and Child Health Interest Group. Her areas of interest include maternal and child nutrition, particularly lactation, and maternal and child mortality reduction in the Dominican Republic.
Maha Mehmood (she/her) is a co-editor of MCH Leads and a first-year MPH student at the University at Albany, concentrating in Epidemiology as well as pursuing a Graduate Certificate in Maternal and Child Health. She graduated in Spring 2022 from UAlbany with a Bachelor’s in Biology. Maha is also the current Graduate Assistant for the UAlbany MCH Program. Her hobbies include research, studying, shopping, and volunteer work. Maha is planning to apply to medical school this upcoming cycle with hopes of specializing in obstetrics and gynecology, specifically focusing on Maternal-Fetal Medicine.
Welcome to the MCH Leads Blog!
MCH Leads provides maternal and child health (MCH) students (sometimes called “trainees”) affiliated with HRSA-funded Centers of Excellence (COE) and Catalyst programs the opportunity to showcase and reflect on their learning and accomplishments in a national online community. Authors reflect on their research or practice experiences, and are also asked to apply the MCH leadership Competencies to their work. This student-led resource offers trainees a space to learn from their soon-to-be colleagues, and connect with other students and professionals from all around the US.
MCH Leads is hosted by student co-editors from the Center for Leadership in Education in Maternal and Child Public Health at the University of Minnesota (UMN)-Twin Cities and the University at Albany (UAlbany) MCH Public Health Catalyst Program. In this post, we will introduce you to the new co-editors, Estefanía Henríquez Luthje and Maha Mehmood, and the overarching theme that will shape our spring 2023 blog posts.
January-May 2022: Health Equity Edition
“Health Equity is the absence of disparities or avoidable differences among socioeconomic and demographic groups or geographical areas in health status and health outcomes such as disease, disability, or mortality.” (HRSA, 2020). In order to advance health equity for MCH populations, beginning January 2023, MCH Leads will feature trainees’ health equity-focused work, including but not limited to volunteer, practicum, and research experiences, community projects, and products developed from MCH coursework.
We look forward to highlighting trainees’ experiences supporting the health and well-being of vulnerable and underserved populations and communities. Also, their work assessing and addressing the underlying causes of health disparities–and their efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion–ultimately improving MCH outcomes. In addition, we encourage trainees to reflect on how the MCH leadership Competencies are applicable to their health equity-focused stories.
Meet our 2022-2023 Co-Editors: Estefanía and Maha
As co-editors of MCH Leads, Estefanía and Maha act as the key contacts for all blog-related work. They are the bridge that connects the Center for Leadership in Education in Maternal and Child Public Health at the UMN -Twin Cities and the UAlbany MCH Public Health Catalyst Program. Maha and Estefanía lead and maintain the blog at all stages of the publishing process, from contacting students and directors from COE and Catalyst programs for author recruitment and assisting authors in choosing which MCH leadership competency they would like to highlight, to editing, publishing, and promoting final pieces for their audience to view.
Learn More about Estefanía and Maha
Tell us about yourself: Where did you grow up? Where did you go to undergrad? What did you study?
Estefanía: I was born in summer-all-year-round Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and lived there just until moving to Minneapolis three months ago, August 2022, to pursue the MCH Master of Public Health at the UMN-Twin Cities. A previous degree is not required to enroll in medical school in my country, so after finishing high school, I began my studies at the Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo, where I obtained my M.D. in 2020. That same year, I confirmed my interests and passion for public health after completing the Principles and Practice of Clinical Research certificate at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Maha: I am originally from Long Island, NY, but I grew up in Upstate, NY, for much of my life. I still prefer the Long Island weather; it is a beautiful place to visit. Although fall is my favorite season, and nothing beats fall in Upstate NY! For undergrad, I attended the UAlbany where I majored in biology on a pre-med track. I finished undergrad in three years, instead of four, and decided to stay at UAlbany for my master’s degree!
What drew you to public health and to MCH?
Maha: Out of all the questions, this one must be the hardest to answer. I would not say there was one thing that drew me to public health but various experiences and moments in my life that emphasized the importance to public health in a whole. Growing up in an immigrant household to parents who did not have the most stable health status exposed me to a lot. Our healthcare system is tremendously flawed. As someone who hopes to go into medicine, I feel like it is vital to build knowledge around public health topics. Institutional racism is a real thing and needs to be recognized in order to reverse it. MCH has always been an interest for me. I grew up close with my mother and other motherly figures I had present in my life. I feel like the relationship between a mother and a child is like no other.
Estefanía: A couple of months before obtaining my medical degree, and while reflecting on past academic and professional experiences, I became aware of my sustained inclination to public health. An interest that started developing as early as junior year in high school when my classmate María Amelia and I took a deep dive into research methods to study the relationship between painful periods (dysmenorrhea) and school absenteeism in our school population for our yearly science fair project, which moved us to create resources to empower our classmates about their health. During that moment of introspection, I connected the dots between many of my experiences and choices during medical school. I understood why, despite the heavy coursework and clinical rotations, I persevered to find time and energy to assist teaching during public health and research methods classes, participate in research, and lead community education and outreach efforts. As for my interest in MCH, much before deciding to pursue a public health career, I had the conviction that it just made sense to provide a healthy start in life for everyone, even before conception, as it would be the surest and more effective way to guarantee health throughout the lifespan. I recently learned that “personal conviction” is the rationale behind MCH’s life-course theory.
What is your preferred MCH Leadership Competency?
Estefanía: It is a tough choice, but at the moment, I identify the most with competency nine, developing others through teaching, coaching, and mentoring. For me, a life well-lived is one in which I can positively impact others. One of my preferred ways to do so is by contributing to people’s personal and professional development. Being an academically engaged person for most of my school life, teaching, coaching, and mentoring are ways for me to share the insights I have gained throughout the years so others can advance their personal and professional goals in the field of MCH. By helping trainees’ develop and advance their careers, one’s impact in MCH exponentially increases!
Maha: My preferred MCH competency is number seven, cultural competency. I am a Pakistani-American and I truly love my culture. I feel like it is vital to learn more about other cultures, not only to widen your field of knowledge but to be able to interact with many more people in a culturally respectful way. Having the capacity to communicate and interact with individuals from different cultures is essential when one is working to decrease health disparities affecting that group of people, ultimately leading to health equity.
What are you looking forward to as an MCH Leads co-editor?
Maha: I am looking forward to getting a lot of first-hand exposure to the different fields within MCH. There is so much interesting research that is happening within this community, I am so excited to learn more about it! As someone who is new to the field of MCH, I feel like being an MCH Leads co-editor will be tremendously rewarding–not only the experience and exposure, but I am so excited to work with our friends over at the UMN!
Estefanía: The MCH Leads co-editor role perfectly merges my interest in MCH with my creative abilities for content creation (blogging, graphic design, and content-sharing platform management) and my passion for helping others best showcase their accomplishments as a way to advance their professional goals. I look forward to learning from fellow trainees ways to strengthen my knowledge and skills around the MCH leadership competencies and how to apply them to my MCH experience. I am also eager to connect and collaborate on the blog (and other MCH endeavors!) with fellow MCH trainees and graduates.