public health, Uncategorized

Happiness (Reasons why I study Public Health)

Last year, at Stony Brook University’s commencement, Billy Joel said  “If you are not doing what you love, you are wasting your time.”

I was brought up to value people, time, and experiences. Abundance comes from the riches of the heart, not money. 

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (43.8 million, or 18.5%) experience mental illness in a given year. I am passionate about mental health because it is intangible– something we often cannot physically see but it manifests in both positive and negative ways within ourselves and the clients in the communities we serve.

Emery House is a work-bed program for men who are experiencing homelessness but have at least a part-time job. The program provides accommodations up to six months to help men save money to find stable housing. Two weeks ago, my ISCOPES Adult Health Literacy team members and I visited Emery House for our last implementation. We had a discussion about resilience and happiness after watching a clip from the documentary “Happy.”

At the end of our implementation I had the pleasure of interacting with one brave soul, whose battle I knew nothing about. Yet everything about him made me feel calm. We chatted about public health and spoke about helping others’ (service) as a coping mechanism because “there are always people who are doing much worse than you are…and you don’t even know.”  I learned that he was once a medical student and is now a passionate science teacher. Towards the end of our conversation, he addressed the little hint of what he recognized as ambivalence about my career aspirations. “Farzana, you could have been anywhere else, but you were here, making a difference,” he said.  Suddenly, I felt a rush of reassurance. I am exactly where I belong.

Along with many memories at Emery House, this day made me feel humble…I was overwhelmed with appreciation because I felt honored to spend time with men who were persistent and resilient despite their difficult life experiences or current situation. The participants all acknowledged that they weren’t happy about where they were but were grateful for what they did have.

Sometimes happiness isn’t the first thought that comes to mind when we think of public health because of the health disparities and inequities that exist. However, I am happy to say that every experience I have had thus far has reaffirmed my decision in pursuing a career in public health.

*Cheers* Readers, I sincerely hope you’re doing what you love.
If you are not doing what you love, you are wasting your time.”

To read more about George Washington University, ISCOPES:


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