MHA student demonstrates leadership in action in a most critical year

By Sally Crocker

Student Hina Ajaz

In an election year like no other, UNTHSC Master of Health Administration (MHA) student Hina Ajaz stepped up in a major way to help get out the vote and advocate for state and local initiatives supporting public health and health equity.

Ajaz plans to work in health policy after graduation, perhaps as a legislative health advisor or in another role where she can make a difference on behalf of healthier communities.

An Arlington resident working toward graduation and the launch of her professional career later this spring, Ajaz was elected as one of the youngest Tarrant County precinct chairs in her district one year ago at age 24.

Last summer, she became one of the youngest Delegates to attend the Texas State Convention, virtual in 2020, where she engaged with legislators, candidates, other leaders and influencers on important issues like COVID-19 response and prevention, addressing infant mortality in Tarrant County, Medicaid expansion, rural healthcare needs and the impact of certain laws and policies on the health of diverse and minority populations both in her district and beyond.

Running for Delegate usually involves campaign expenses for flyers, website development and other materials, but as a student with limited resources, Ajaz found support from the Young Democratic Caucus of Tarrant County, giving the boost she needed to enter the race.

Ajaz is a Pakistani American second-generation college student who is active in the Texas Muslim Caucus and the Texas Asian American Pacific Islander Caucus. Her work as a graduate student has also included a health policy internship with Emgage USA, the country’s leading Muslim American voter engagement organization.

In 2020, she volunteered for local and U.S. Presidential campaign phone banks to support her chosen candidates.

She collaborated with others to connect with voters in new ways during the pandemic, when visiting door-to-door wasn’t always advisable and digital communications seemed the better way to go.

She worked for the U.S. Census in an effort to get every resident counted.

She took on an international affairs research project for a state legislative proposal.

Her energy and commitment are reflective of a growing number of young voices at HSC and elsewhere leading change in their communities today.

“I really felt like this was my calling, my way of stepping up to leadership,” she said. “Between classes, my internship and volunteer efforts, there were a lot of long nights, but this is exactly where I want to be and what I want to do.”

Her work at HSC, Ajaz says, has gone a long way in inspiring her and offering a greater perspective on “how important it is to be a good leader.”

“HSC has given me a strong background in how policies are implemented and how people can be affected, especially populations that may be disproportionately impacted in achieving their healthiest life possible,” she said.

HSC’s MHA program, within the School of Public Health, prepares students for healthcare leadership roles with a focus on the social determinants of health related to how people live, learn, work and play. Health is influenced by many elements, including genetics, behavior, environmental and physical influences, medical care and social factors. All of these categories, according to the CDC, are interconnected. These determinants have a major impact on people’s health, quality of life and life expectancy.

During the pandemic, Ajaz said she has been inspired by her MHA cohorts, the strengths and bonds that have been forged between her fellow students “building each other up and growing together,” and by HSC faculty, her program directors and advisors, who “have led by example, demonstrating how important it is to be a good leader.”

“One of the most important things I’ve learned in public health and the MHA program so far,” she said, “is that everyone’s voice is important, that we shouldn’t be afraid to weigh in, take a position and stand up for the programs and causes that are critical to our communities’ good health and well-being. This is what I plan to continue doing in the future.”

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