Alumna Spotlight: Heather Molina

SPHIS alumna Heather Molina, MPH, graduated in May 2010. She became interested in the field of public health thanks to a mentor she met as an undergraduate who exposed her to the area of refugee mental health. Molina said, “I was really inspired by her work as it was very unique and exciting.”

However, after graduating from SPHIS, Molina was unsure what she wanted to do next. She did some contract work, owned and operated a yoga studio which specialized in prenatal and postpartum yoga, and started a family.

When she decided to go back to work full time, she said the MPH degree prepared and aided her in securing her current position as the Mental Health Coordinator at Migration and Refugee Services. She said, “While I had an innate sense of wanting to work in the social work field, and in wanting to do direct support work for refugees and families, the MPH gave me a good foundation on how to do that work, on creating evidence-based programs and how to properly evaluate them.”

Her responsibilities are complex and change day-to-day. She said, “I am basically a social worker for newly resettled refugees in Louisville.” She connects refugees primarily with mental health and wellness resources and does assessments to help determine appropriate care plans. She encounters a lot of trauma survivors, so a majority of her job is spent doing crisis intervention and stabilization, trainings, and wellness programs that support healing.

When asked if she had any advice for those just beginning their public health journies, she encouraged students to get specific and to ask lots of questions. She said, “Think deeply about your how’s and why’s. How do you want to spend your day? At the computer? Talking to people? Both? Why do you want to do this work? How will this work support your goals for personal growth? Ask yourself a lot of questions, and never hesitate to change your mind about a project, job or placement. It’s your experience, you have to own it and make it what you want it to be.”

As for those students who are about to graduate, she said networking is key. Molina said, “Don’t dismiss even the smallest interaction with people because they are all leading you somewhere.”

Looking back on her time at SPHIS, Molina said she wishes she would have followed her heart more. She concluded by saying, “Get into the world, talk to everyone and let everyone know what you’re up to. The right doors will open. If you follow your heart and instinct, your path will flow and feel very rewarding.”

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