Thank You For Being Such A Vital Part Of Our Team, Michelle Sandoval-Rosario! We Look Forward To Sharing More About You So Others Can Get To Know You Better!
Tell us a bit about your backstory and what lead you down your current life path.
When I was a child, I always knew I wanted to help people and do something in the healthcare setting. I remember my cousin scratching her knee and I was the first one to run over and put a bandage on it, while all my other cousins ran away from the sight of blood. I was always fascinated with the body. Fast-forward about 20 years later when I was in college and trying to decide what I wanted to major in. I knew I wanted to help people and I wanted to be in the medical field, but I didn’t know if medical school was for me. It wasn’t until my last year in college that one of my mentors encouraged me to take an Epidemiology class. I know what your thinking: what is Epidemiology? That was my same thought my senior year in college. Well, low and behold, I fell in love with Epidemiology and Public Health. The opportunity to be able to study population health and make a large impact on the health of people was fascinating to me. After college, I decided to pursue a Master’s and Doctoral in Public Health and have been able to work both across the US and overseas on a variety of public health initiatives ranging from investigating infectious diseases to improving the health of women and children. I am really blessed and humbled to be able to work in a field I am very passionate about.
What or who inspired you to pursue your major/career, Michelle?
My passion to pursue a career in public health came from seeing the need to end health inequalities. Growing up, I saw firsthand the many inequalities we have in our world. I saw my own family struggle with accessing basic health care needs and the lack of opportunities many communities of color face.
What is one thing you are most proud of achieving in your life?
I am most proud of becoming a mother. I have two beautiful boys (Luciano, 4 years and Florencio, 1 year). Although they keep me on my toes, they have taught me so much about life and how to be a better person. I have learned to have more patience and compassion and to enjoy life just a little more. I am so proud of the mother I am becoming, and I just hope I can be a role model to them just like my parents have been for my family.
What keeps you motivated? What maintains your passion for and commitment to the work you are doing?
A better future for all and ending health inequalities! I have seen how inequalities and injustice in the health system have impacted marginalized communities. Where you live, work, and play matters to your health. Through my work around the world, I have seen how the lack of opportunities has disproportionally impacted communities of color and other marginalized groups. These inequalities have contributed to gaps in access to health insurance, uneven access to services, and poorer health outcomes among certain communities. Unfortunately, certain communities bear the brunt of these health challenges. My hope is that one day, my boys will grow up in a world where everyone has access to the same opportunities – this is what keeps me going.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I would say my father is whom I am most grateful for helping me get where I am today. My father arrived in the US from Colombia when he was a teenager, with a dream for a better life. Since day one, he has worked hard to provide for his family. Growing up, my father always wanted my brother and me to achieve big dreams and accomplish our goals. Education for his children has always been very important to him. Although we struggled financially – living in a one-bedroom apartment for my childhood – my father worked hard to provide for his family. He got up every morning, never missing a day of work, to provide for us. My father has shown me that with hard work, dedication, and persistence, you can accomplish anything. He has always believed, no matter how many mistakes I have made. He has given me the confidence to step outside my comfort zone and move across the world to follow my dreams. I am so proud to be the daughter of Jairo Sandoval, an immigrant from Cali, Colombia who was able to achieve the American dream and help his daughter become who she is today.
What do you like to do in your free time, Michelle?
I love exploring life with my husband and two boys. My husband and I are both working parents, so we try to spend as much time as we can with our boys during our off time.
Tell about an amazing trip you took. Where did you go and what did you enjoy most?
Wow! There are so many of them. I would have to say Africa. In 2013, I had the opportunity to travel to Liberia, the Western part of Africa, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help with a polio campaign. I had the opportunity to spend 3 months in this beautiful country. During my trip, I met some amazing individuals who immediately accepted me as their family. To this day, I can say they continue to be part of my family. What I loved most about Liberia were the people and the culture. Although Liberia is a country that suffered many decades of war and poverty, people are filled with hope love, and gratitude – something we need more of in America. It was so inspiring, and I am forever humbled to have had the experience to call Liberia home for a short time. I hope to take my two boys one day and show them the beauty of Africa.
Is there something exciting you are working on now? What is it and why did you choose to start it?
As we mark the 40th anniversary of the first official report of AIDS on June 5th, 1981, and the more than 32 million people who have died from AIDS-related illnesses globally, I am so excited and honored to be working with amazing partners from across the nation to end HIV inequalities. We have the tools today to end the HIV epidemic. The national initiative I am currently working on is about using the tools we have to reduce new HIV infections in the next five years by 75% and by at least 90% in the next 10 years. I am excited to be working in this field to further improve the health of all.
Why did you choose to be a Board Member of Educate. Radiate. Elevate.?
I believe education is key to overcoming inequalities. I was never the best student in school; however, I had some great teachers and mentors who helped me get to where I am today. I believe in the mission and vision of E.R.E., and I want to be part of an organization that provides youth with the tools they need to reach their best potential. It is an honor to serve on the Board.
What about the Educate. Radiate. Elevate.’s Purpose, Mission, and Core Values speaks most to you and why?
Educate. Radiate. Elevate.’s purpose, mission, and core values all resonate with who I am as a person and who I strive to be. Empathy, equity in education, and being culturally sensitive are values that define how we will end inequities. I am so proud to be part of an organization that values the lives of the most underserved and that is working to bring opportunities to youth who have never been given a fair chance before.