Zineb Alfath, a CBS senior studying neuroscience and Spanish studies, recently received a Scholarly Excellence in Equity and Diversity (SEED) Award from the Office of Equity and Diversity, an honor given to students of diverse backgrounds who show excellence both in and out of the classroom at the University of Minnesota. Through her work on an honors thesis looking into health disparities among underprivileged groups in Latin America, work as a clinical research associate at the U of M Children’s Hospital and volunteering for Hennepin County Medical Center, she has worked tirelessly to pursue a future of better healthcare opportunities. We caught up with Alfath to get her thoughts on the award and what drives her passion for addressing health disparities.
What did it mean to you to receive a SEED award?
I was so honored and humbled to receive this award, and it definitely confirmed to me how important it is that I use my CBS degree and the skill sets and knowledge that I’ve gained from it, to work on issues of equity and social justice in the future.
What particularly interests you in healthcare in Latin America? Why do you want to serve in this area?
Majoring in Spanish has really opened my eyes to many of the cultural, socio-economic and political contexts in which healthcare needs to be discussed in Latin America and many regions of the world. I’ve had the opportunity to combine my interests in the Spanish language, culture and history with my interests in global and population health. Throughout my coursework, I’ve found that there are many marginalized populations in Latin America that have limited access to healthcare as well as some of the social determinants of health – education, nutrition, clean water and wealth – and that these factors often disproportionately affect mothers and children.
Why healthcare? What about that field intrigues you?
I view healthcare as an essential human right because having access to quality health resources can empower individuals and communities to be successful in other areas. I am also really attracted to the idea of interdisciplinary teamwork, which is becoming a more integral part of healthcare here in the United States and around the world.
What are your long-term career aspirations?
I hope to use a career as a physician to work at the public policy and population health level – I am particularly passionate about maternal and child health, so I hope to be able to encourage disease prevention during childhood to be a bigger part of the dialogue on building healthy communities.
What did you do as a research associate?
As a research associate at the University of Minnesota Children’s Hospital, I’ve been involved with a few clinical studies in various departments including the Emergency Department where I screen patients, explain the research to parents, enroll participants and collect data.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’m so thankful for the incredible leadership, advising, and student services staff in the College of Biological Sciences for their support as I’ve explored my options over the past few years!