Nancy Tovar-Garcia graduated with a degree in public health.
What’s your story, how did you get to the UW?
I’m the first of six children to attend college. Seeing my parents, who are from Mexico, work in agriculture their whole lives made me realize that I didn’t want that for myself. The path to higher education wasn’t easy. My parents only made it through elementary school, so I was somewhat on my own when it came to doing homework or applying for scholarships. I had to search for alternative resources in order to accomplish my goals. I attended Wenatchee Valley College for two years and transferred to the UW this fall.
Why did you decide to major in public health?
When I was a senior in high school, I thought I wanted to be a nurse. I explored the field and enrolled in a course called Health Occupations, which was designed for students who wanted to be Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs). I learned various skills, passed the exam and became a CNA. As part of the class, I conducted outreach in local elementary schools about the impact of smoking and drug use. This was when I discovered my passion for public health.
Can you tell us more about the smoking and drug use outreach?
Our team of CNAs created a skit about the effects of smoking, which we performed for elementary students. We also designed projects to educate students about the chemicals found in various drugs and how they affect the human body. The students were amazed. I always looked forward to the days I got to work with them and teach them about the importance of living a healthy lifestyle.
What do you think is most interesting about public health?
The fact that I get to help others. I’ve always dreamed of giving back to the community.
What are your professional goals?
My ultimate goal is to obtain my PhD. There is a need for public health workers in the Hispanic community. I want to break existing barriers in health communication and literacy, and I think I can make a big difference by returning to my hometown of Wenatchee. I’d love to work for a nonprofit organization working in the health or healthcare space.
What advice would you give to prospective students?
Take opportunities to job shadow and do internships related to public health. The more experience you get in the field, the more you’ll know the path you want to take.
What kind of work or volunteering do you do?
While at Wenatchee Valley College, I volunteered as a tutor for the Adult Basic Education department. I was also a mentor for the College Assistance Migrant Program, or CAMP. This past October, I volunteered as an escort and Spanish interpreter for the Seattle/King County Clinic.
Tell us about your involvement in the McNair program.
The Ronald E. McNair Program prepares undergraduate students for doctoral study through involvement in research and scholarly activities. I applied to the McNair Program earlier this fall, because I’m interested in getting a Master’s and, hopefully, a PhD in public health. With support from the program, I hope to build a foundation of research experience that will help shape me into a strong applicant for graduate school. I’m interested in doing research about tobacco use, in particular.