Renata Terrazzan, Public Health Undergraduate Student

Renata Terrazzan

Hello! My name is Renata Terrazzan and I am going into my senior year majoring in Public Health Sciences with a double minor in French and Environmental Studies. My goal is to go into Health Administration and get an MPH in health policy and management.

Being a Public Health major in this pandemic has been quite an experience. In a somewhat positive light, these past couple of months have been the first time in my life that someone has asked me my major and actually known what “Public Health” was. Which is one of the only – if not the only – highlight of this pandemic. For a long time, not having anyone know what Public Health was quite discouraging to me and even caused me to waver in my decision to pursue Public Health. Being involved in Public Health in my job this summer has helped me regain confidence in my field and helped me see the importance of it.

CHEPS played a huge role in deciding that I want to pursue an MPH. CHEPS really fell into my lap and I am so grateful it did. I was studying in the UGLi one day – stressing out about summer plans – when a friend and then current CHEPS student recommend I apply. I checked the website out and audibly laughed – this place had so many engineers, there’s no way I’d get in. But I reluctantly applied and – luckily – here I am!

The transition into CHEPS was one that was difficult but ended up being extremely beneficial. For the past three years, I have been exposed to a variety of health and pre-health professionals – public health professionals (of course), researchers, nurses, PAs, doctors, etc. But I had never worked with engineers, who have such a different background from my own. Engineering provides a very technical and scientific demeanor to approaching problems, and one that I was very intimated by. Whenever coding or any math concept was brought up in my meetings for the first couple of weeks at CHEPS, I would shy away from saying anything or even asking questions. But slowly, with the welcoming environment provided by my peers and the CHEPS staff, I began asking more questions and being more comfortable with conversations about those highly technical concepts. Although I may not know exactly what everything means, I am confident in my ability to at least understand the basics and provide my outlook as a public health-trained person. It has also given me the confidence to work in Hospital Administration, where various professionals report and discuss issues of all different levels and you are able to provide guidance and help to them.

I was placed in the State Hospital Staffing Project for CHEPS. This project works to help Psychiatric State Hospitals around Michigan assess their staffing needs. The project really consolidated my interests in hospital management and increasing efficiency in a hospital setting. I’ve spent a lot of time in the U-M hospital as a volunteer for the past 3 years but working behind the scenes has given me an entirely new perspective of the issues hospitals face. Currently, the team is working on building a workbook that will assess each State Hospital’s staffing needs and issues and project future staffing needs. This staffing project has given me the opportunity to talk to hospital administrators firsthand and get their perspective on all the areas that are lacking in their hospitals – things that I couldn’t even imagine when I was just a volunteer. I see the value of having the right tools to assess staffing needs and how understaffing can lead to so many problems in the field.

Members of the State Hospital Staffing Team during a virtual meeting

I really appreciate the diversity in the speakers and activities that the CHEPS team has given to its students this summer. While no one expected our summer bonding activities to be over Zoom, our Monday Socials and Tuesday Journal Clubs are greatly appreciated. The speakers that we have heard from every Friday are each in such different fields within health but are all so kind and generous about their experiences and very willing to help current students reach their goals. My mentor Joe East, who also spoke on a Friday Lunch and Learn, met with me for an hour and gave me great insight about Hospital Administration that I could have never gotten without the CHEPS mentorship program. I also appreciate the care that the students and staff have for each other, whether it be through kind messages in the GroupMe, movie nights about social justice, or emails from Amy about recent social issues, it provides for a very supportive work environment.

CHEPS is such a unique opportunity that I am very lucky to experience as an undergrad. It is exciting to be part of research that is helping people in real-time, unlike almost all other research that takes years to make it into the real world. I am lucky to be a part of this community that is able to meld so many different types of training backgrounds and see how they are all useful in our many projects. I hope to use all that I have learned and am continuously learning in order to optimize health as I move forward in my studies.