Q&A With a Senior Public Health and Wellness Major & Rowan Choice Student

Theresa Bennett stands outside her internship at Inspira Health Network with their logo behind her.

Public Health & Wellness Major Discusses Her Passion for Public Health & Wellness, her internship and professional goals

Senior Theresa Bennett, from Trenton, NJ (Mercer County) joined Rowan through the Rowan Choice program, a partnership with community college RCSJ that allows students to live on Rowan University’s campus while taking 24-30 community college credits, which is a cost savings to the student. Theresa will graduate with a degree in Public Health and Wellness.

Theresa Bennett stands for a portrait.

Can you tell me what public health and wellness is?

Public health and wellness focuses on prevention, disease prolonging life, and promoting health.

What got you interested in this degree path?

I became interested in public health because as a child I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder. This meant that I had to do a whole bunch of doctor visits in a hospital. During that time being in a hospital, the nurses and practitioners really helped me and made me feel comfortable. So being able to do that for other people as well is exactly what I want to do. I saw that they were passionate about their job. They weren’t just there just to be there.

Theresa sits in an office with a colleague talking to her at her internship.
Theresa at her internship with Inspira Health

What kind of avenues and jobs can you get in public health and wellness?

You can go into nursing and you could go into population health. Public health is a wide aspect. So you could do anything within the health field.

What’s your experience thus far in the department with the professors?

They’re absolutely delightful. They definitely helped me to broaden my aspect of public health and to look into different things within public health as well as, teaching me and going over what opportunities to work outside of the classroom are present in the major. There are public health clubs. There are a lot of internships within public health population health, such as volunteering with professors, working alongside professors, and so forth. So there’s a lot of opportunities for students. 

Can you talk a little bit about the importance of having those opportunities while you’re getting your education here and the importance of having those opportunities?

It helps you to broaden your mind about what field or what jobs you want to go to into public health. So say, for instance, if you want to be a public health professor or so forth, you can work under them or shadow under them if you don’t like it. You could go into a different field, into the population, help population health shadow under that, or find an internship in the hospital. It really just depends on what you want to do and finding out what you like.

So going off of the internship opportunities, I recently completed an internship at Inspira Health and Population Health, where we basically reach out to patients under a specific health insurance, asking them if they need help with finding doctors, dental services, jobs, childcare and a lot of other health services. We help them to find those things so that, you know, they’re not alone and that we care.

Theresa stands under an Inspira Health Network overpass at her internship.

Is that the avenue that you’re looking more toward, population health, and if so why?

I am looking toward population health. It definitely piqued my interest. You’re helping people to find resources that they need. A lot of people don’t know where to start and a lot of people don’t know where to go. So being that helps people, to call them, it really helps them and it broadens their aspect as well to ask questions like, okay, how can I do this? So once a week I went in from 9 to 12 for a couple hours and I’d get on the phone with patients and I ask them if they need any of our services within our community program and if they do need any of our services, we schedule an assessment to them to find out their specific needs and help them along those lines.

Can you explain what Rowan Choice is?

With Rowan Choice, you’re able to stay on the Rowan University campus while taking classes over at the community college. Rowan College of South Jersey, that’s where I took my classes. With Rowan Choice, you’re also able to save a lot on your tuition as well. It’s very important to me that I had that opportunity because I’m able to not have to worry about paying for tuition or paying as much for tuition, which really allows me to focus on my education. And then when I was done with the two years and I was able to just go into my junior year smoothly, continuing on Rowan’s campus.

Can you also explain the importance of being able to have that opportunity to have that college campus life, even though it was during COVID-19?

Even though it was during COVID, having that opportunity to stay on campus, even though you didn’t specifically take the classes at Rowan University was still great. I was able to also participate in any activities that they might offer there. Even though I was taking classes at the community college.

A far shot from looking through the doorway at Theresa working at a desk at her internship.

Are you in any clubs? And if so, what?

I am going to be in the Public Health Club.

Can you explain a little bit about what other things you do outside the classroom?

I also substitute teach. I got into substitute teaching as I explained overall, I just want to help people any way I can. That’s my goal, to help people to be there for people, specifically for kids as well. Not only would I like to help them medically, but I want to help them expand their minds by teaching them as well and offering any support I can while I’m around them.

What do you see are some obstacles in health and wellness within the community?

Some obstacles that I see within the health community are that some people are willing to make a change when it comes to their health and there are others who simply have given up. It’s very difficult to change a person’s mind, even when there’s so much hope and fight left in them. Nonetheless, though the only person that could change their mind is them. So while you can be an influence to say, take your health into consideration, we are here for you. The only person that can change their mind is them and so that would have to be the most difficult aspect in the health field. The best we can do sometimes is to make sure we get to know them first, get to know their background and just be the inspiration to them or the light they might need.

Do you think you’ll go to nursing school?

It is definitely an interest that I have, but being in public health, administrative and or population health is definitely another interest that I have. So whatever interest that I pick at the end, all of the stuff.

Theresa smiles with a hand on her hip.

How would you say healthcare can be improved for people of color?

So the health care system is different for those who are Black in a majority white community. I do see that. I was actually doing research on it and there is a difference present. Being a person of color to actually go into the field, even though I can make a difference in the entire world, I can make a difference in my community. While I do care for other people, of course, being able to be on the frontline helping people who look like me, my community, is an inspiration, to say the least. I want to strive to do anything I can to make sure that health care is equal. I think that’s important because there are a lot of times when people would say that health care is equal for all people, and it’s really not.

What’s the biggest impact that you hope to make in this profession?

The biggest impact that I would like to make in my profession is to help those who were in my shoes feel their best and help them feel as comfortable and seen as possible. I want to show them nothing is impossible when you put your mind to it. Promoting health, and wellness, and promoting a strong community that actually cares is my mission.

What drew you to Rowan?

It was it’s definitely the Rowan Choice opportunity that piqued my interest, especially when I looked at the aspect of, okay, I could focus more on my education than having to pay a lot of money for my tuition. So that definitely saved me the time and the stress of not having to worry about money. And I can actually focus on my education more.

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