When she began looking for a graduate program, Vanessa Nguyen wanted something original. After finishing her undergraduate degree at a large university, she hoped her graduate school experience would include working closely with her professors and fellow students on issues that she cares about. She found the right fit with the dual degree program in Health Services Research. This unique program is offered jointly by two departments: Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Health Policy and Administration. This combination offers students a unique opportunity to not only access health-services organizations but also put their findings into practice.
"Prior to coming to Loma Linda University School of Public Health, I spent most of my baccalaureate years involved with community based work," Vanessa says. "While I was motivated by the idea of making myself resourceful and valued the hands-on experience I gained form the years of community work, I also realized the benefit to obtaining higher education and training that would grant me the skills necessary to provide better health to community members as a whole". As part of her program, Vanessa put her skills to work on a program that is near to the hearts of those living in Southern California: air pollution and respiratory diseases in children.
Knowing that respiratory diseases are a leading health concern in children—causing considerable health care expenses including hospitalization—Vanessa reviewed the statistics and realized the need to study the impact of this on health outcomes and the health care system. In her analysis, Vanessa took into consideration the differing levels of air pollution throughout the country, which are influenced by population density, human activity, geography, and climate. "Comparisons between regions could offer cost comparisons in the effect of air pollution and hospital admissions due to respiratory disease," she notes.
"Many studies discuss the relevance of air pollution to respiratory disease among youth," Vanessa continues, "but less is discussed about the impact of inpatient healthcare costs." She has developed a study that aims to detect any correlation between ambient air pollutants (ozone and particulate matter 2.5) and the hospitalizations of children (0-20 years) for non-cancer respiratory conditions.
Vanessa is finishing up her project and ready to put her education to work in the public health workforce. After reflecting about her time spent on campus, Vanessa notes that one of the strengths of her program has been her ability to interact with her fellow students who come from around the globe to study at Loma Linda University School of Public Health. She found that her time on campus was "definitely enriched with the perspective gained from other cultures and regions represented at the school."