Like many high school students, Jonathan Yasin’s opportunities to hang out with friends and engage with the world around him were upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, the summer before his senior year, Jonathan did the same as many others – he browsed the internet for things to do. He came across a global nonprofit organization focused on improving access to health care for families and signed up as a “virtual” volunteer. This experience ignited his passion for social justice. When it came time to apply to college a few months later, he committed to an undergraduate program in public health being formed at the University of Pittsburgh.
The program, a Bachelor of Science in Public Health (BSPH), was “soft-launched” in the fall of 2021. Jonathan was one of 133 undergraduate students from across Pitt who took courses as part of the degree program.
During the beginning of the pandemic, Jonathan was a trusted voice for his parents and grandparents who had emigrated to the U.S. from Guyana, South America, encouraging them to wear their face masks and, later, become vaccinated. He thought about how coming from a low-resource setting had likely impacted his family’s reluctance to seek health care, and he wanted to understand more about disparities among global health systems.
“For the longest time, I wanted to be a physician,” says Jonathan, a native of Long Island, N.Y. “But, I never thought about it in a global context or considered all the things that shape health until my volunteer work. I started really thinking about public health and how it could be a window into practicing medicine. Public health is as much science as it is social justice.”
During his first term at Pitt, Jonathan took two courses in the BSPH curriculum – “Fundamentals of Public Health” and “Essentials of Health Equity: Exploring Social and Structural Determinants of Health.” What he appreciated most was the open discussion that took place during the classes and being exposed to different perspectives toward health care.
Jonathan is looking forward to starting his service-learning component of the BSPH program, which requires students to fulfill 120 service hours by collaborating with community leaders to resolve real-world health issues. He is working with BSPH program staff to develop a unique clinical practicum that will allow him to join clinical care rounding teams at local hospitals to observe the dynamic between health care providers and patients. Jonathan’s motivation comes from what he sees as the need for public health professionals to be a part of a patient’s traditional health care team in hospital settings.
“I think it’s great that I can craft the way I want my public health education to be,” says Jonathan. “This program is an amazing opportunity for an undergraduate. Not only am I getting clinical experience for medical school, I am also seeing medicine through a public health and social justice lens.”
Read more about the Bachelor's in Public Health (BSPH) program...