Reyna Macias, MPH ’11 is a 2022-2023 recipient of the USC Latino Alumni Association (LAA) scholarship. She is one of six scholars from the USC Department of Population and Public Health Science to receive this recognition this year. Macias is currently a doctoral student and serves as an Academic Advisor in the Department. She guides students as they navigate their higher education pursuits—as she once did, years prior in the same program.
Her public health journey began as a teenager. Growing up in East Los Angeles, she began to notice the substandard health services available to her father who was living with a chronic condition. There were few places for residents to seek health care and not enough initiatives around health promotion. This marked the beginning of her community engagement. She enrolled in the USC Med-COR Program, which not only offered Saturday tutoring and SAT sessions, but also provided an opportunity to volunteer at the Los Angeles County + USC Hospital. It was here, she was confronted with the magnitude of health disparities around her.
After high school, Macias enrolled at the University of California Riverside, and pursued her undergraduate degree in Chicano Studies. “In this field of study” she explains, “you learn about the history of our people and part of that discipline is learning about advocacy.” This made her realize that her background and lived experiences were valuable and could be well-suited for the field of public health. During this time, she officially joined the Trojan family when she became a Research Assistant at Keck School of Medicine of USC. She worked for The Children’s Health Study, one of the largest of its kind, looking at the long-term effects of air pollution on the respiratory health of children. It was here, she enhanced her research skills. Once again, she became involved with the community, engaging with residents as she learned about the lasting health effects of various detrimental environmental exposures.
Now, as an Academic Advisor, she encourages her students who are unsure about their education or career paths, to get involved through volunteering. “Get knee-deep where the need is,” she advises, “once you are motivated by that need, it will inspire you to do something to improve it.” Her story is evident of this sentiment. In order to better address the recurring health disparities she witnessed, she received her Master’s in Public Health (Public Health Education and Promotion) from USC Department of Population and Public Health Sciences.
As a USC LAA Scholar, Macias’ engagement is only further extended. The Association intends to enrich the experiences of scholars through interactions with alumni; proactive involvement through student organizations; and network building through social and professional events. At the award reception, distinguished Latino alumni speakers including the Global Program Director from Meta, and a Biopharma executive from Amgen, connected scholars to resources and served as examples of outstanding prospects available after graduation. The Association has created a community to uplift and remind scholars to seize opportunities, as well as support and equip them to succeed in a large academic ecosystem.
Macias is now pursuing her doctoral degree in Higher Education Administration at USC Rossier School of Education. She believes that education is transformative to a person’s quality of life. One of her goals is to ensure that public health careers are more accessible to students, especially those who have a similar upbringing to hers. She shares that, “you cannot unsee poverty, the lack of resources, or even the effects of poor-quality education,” and these can serve as motivators to improve your environment. Macias believes that investing in the youth in under-resourced neighborhoods, builds capacity and impactful leaders who are more likely to go back and lend their voices to addressing health inequities—raising up the next generation of public health leaders.
Other USC Latino Alumni Association Scholars (2022-2023) from USC Department of Population and Public Health Sciences:
- Alejandra Barreto, MPH candidate
- Alberto Carvajal Jr., MPH candidate
- Jessica Flores, MPH candidate
- Alejandra Lopez, MPH candidate
- Isabella Ortiz, MPH candidate
- Edward Padilla, MPH candidate
- Julia Silva, MPH candidate