UNT Health Science Center dual-degree student Marissa Tan, who graduates this month with both a D.O. degree and a Master’s in Public Health (MPH), has received the U.S. Public Health Service Award for Excellence in Public Health, in recognition of her work to promote health equity through academics, research and volunteerism.
This national award is given to medical students who are public health champions in advancing the U.S. Public Health Service mission to “protect, promote and advance the health and safety of the nation” and who are helping to address public health issues in their communities.
Since 2012, the Excellence in Public Health Award has been given by the USPHS to visionary medical students who are advancing initiatives to improve social justice.
Prior to beginning her studies in the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine (TCOM) and the School of Public Health, Tan worked for AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) at a public housing authority in Reading, Pennsylvania, where she developed resources, mobilized partnerships and informed/measured programming to increase public housing residents’ access to wellness opportunities for improving nutrition and physical activity.
While at UNTHSC, she was involved as a graduate research assistant for “Better Me Within,” a community-based participatory research program working with Dallas churches to reach African American women at high risk for obesity-related chronic illnesses.
Through her epidemiology elective at the CDC, Tan also assisted in projects related to One Health Zoonotic Disease Prioritization; the 2017 Brucella RB51 raw milk outbreak in North Texas; and emergency response efforts for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.
“Being able to add the MPH to my medical degree was important, because I had seen up close the barriers to health that vulnerable populations face when I worked for VISTA,” Tan said. “Beyond the individual patient, there are larger determinants of health, like social, environmental and economic factors, and I wanted to study those alongside my medical courses, in pursuit of health equity.”
Following graduation, Tan will pursue a residency in preventive medicine with a transitional year in Cooperstown, New York, and then Johns Hopkins Medicine, Baltimore.