Future health care leader wants to improve health equity

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Portrait of Hana Nakamura-Daya

Future health care leader wants to improve health equity

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Meet Health Hero Hana Nakamura-Daya

Hana Nakamura-Daya switched from pre-med to public health and will begin her MPH at the University of Michigan in fall 2024. 

During her time at Oregon State, she was a leader in the Japanese Student Association and Student Public Health Association, participated in undergraduate research, received four scholarships and completed two internships, including a position at OHSU and an experience in Taiwan. 

She graduates in June 2024 with an honors bachelor’s degree in public health and a minor in business.

What inspired or interested you about your field of study? And why did you choose OSU/the College of Health?

Health care has always been at the center of my life. Growing up with emergency room doctors, dinner table conversations were vivid as my family discussed inner-city stabbings, gun wounds, heart attacks and chronic diseases. 

Although these stories may evoke excitement and enthusiasm in some, I felt the opposite. 

Witnessing the horrors of the emergency room made me reluctant to pursue a career in health care. However, everything changed during my high school's social and cultural anthropology class when we studied Hmong migration and stress-induced health outcomes. 

It was then that I realized health is not solely biological but also profoundly influenced by social factors, marking my first exposure to the realm of public health.

When I first started OSU, I was a biohealth major because I believed the only way to be in health care and help people was by being a clinician. However, after a few terms, I learned more about OSU's public health program, which led me to change majors and colleges. 

Ever since then, I have greatly enjoyed my time at OSU and in the College of Health. I started off in the health management and policy option and then added the health promotion and health behavior option as well. 

I quickly realized that to make impactful change, having a strong foundational knowledge in the health care system coupled with health promotion and health education experience was essential. 

My education provided clarity that a functional prevention program cannot succeed without a strong understanding of the health care system and that building a firm foundation is essential for ensuring effective, efficient and sustainable program implementation. 

Since I started university in 2020, my main pull to OSU was finances. OSU provided me with many scholarships and grants, which have been very helpful in supporting my education. 

Further, because OSU's strength lies in research and STEM, and has an entire college dedicated to health, I felt like all of my educational needs would be met and supported. 

Do you participate in campus or community clubs or organizations?

Throughout my time at OSU, I have been involved in various clubs and organizations. 

Most notably, I was an officer for the Japanese Student Association (JSA) for three years, being president in my final year. 

JSA is a cultural club at OSU that aims to share and celebrate Japanese culture. JSA allowed me to meet so many wonderful people. My time as an officer pushed me to grow not just as a person but also a leader. My experience led me to realize that I really enjoy leadership and managerial positions and that it's something I would like to pursue in the field of health care. 

In addition, I was also the treasurer for the Student Public Health Association in my sophomore year. I was on the board to help re-establish the club after it had been in hiatus for several years. This allowed me to collaborate and meet peers interested in health care and public health. 

Although it took us a whole year to restart the club, it has been amazing to see how it has grown since then and all the wonderful activities the club hosts.

Have you participated in research? If so, what did you learn from the experience?

During my sophomore year, I participated in OSU's URSA Engage program, where I started my own research study on multiracial identity development with the help of my mentor Dr. Ivan Carbajal. 

I pursued this project as more of a personal project because I come from a mixed-race and multicultural background. 

After the URSA program was completed, I continued with my research for three years and wrote a thesis for the Honors College. 

This was the first time I had worked on research, and it made me realize how long and intricate the processes is! 

I was also greatly challenged because my project was under the Department of Psychology, which was outside my field of expertise. However, doing a project outside my field made me realize the many differences and similarities between research in psychology and public health. 

Have you completed an internship? If so, where and what did you learn from the experience?

Through my degree, I have completed two internships. 

My first experience was as a health care administrative intern at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU). I interned in the post-acute department, where my project was focused on promoting awareness of home health among providers and patients to increase the referral rate for Medicare enrollees.

Through primary research, analysis of peer-reviewed resources, outreach to other public university hospitals, and interviews with stakeholders, I identified gaps in referral and usage within home health systems. 

To address these gaps, I created two informational fliers targeted toward providers and patients, facilitating the conversation of home health. 

This internship made me feel like I was part of a bigger team, and the work I was doing had a positive impact on many areas of the hospital and community. 

This experience gave me a glimpse into health care leadership and administration and made me realize how much bigger the field of health care is beyond clinicians. Ultimately, this experience solidified my decision to pursue a Master of Public Health degree in health management and policy. 

My other experience was via the College of Health with its Taiwan Public Health Internship Program led by Professor Tammy Bray

I completed this internship in the fall of my senior year and learned about the Taiwanese health care system, traditional Chinese medicine and indigenous health. I had the opportunity to visit many different hospitals, medical schools, public health leaders and indigenous tribes and engage with locals to really compare and contrast health and the health care system between the U.S. and Taiwan. 

This internship was one of my most memorable experiences and something I will forever remember and think about not just with its application of health care and my career, but also within my personal life. 

Have you received a scholarship? If so, how has it affected your life and your studies?

I received the Finley Academic Scholarship, IB Diploma Scholarship, College of Health Experiential Learning Scholarship and the Krautscheid Family Scholarship. 

My scholarships greatly helped support my study abroad experience in Taiwan. Without it, I wouldn't have been able to afford to travel abroad and I am grateful that such support was available.

What are your post-college dreams/plans?

I will be attending the University of Michigan to pursue my Master of Public Health degree in health management and policy! 

I want to pursue a career that combines my passions for social justice and health, with the hope of effecting gradual community changes through hospitals, government and nonprofits. 

I aim to develop policies and programs that improve the health of marginalized communities and reduce racial inequities. 

On a larger scale, I strive to be a role model and provide representation within the health care system. 

I want to be an inclusive health care leader who learns about different people, cultures, beliefs and backgrounds to better understand the world around me and emphasize the importance of equity!