Spotlight: Graduate Ambassador James Mallare

By James Mallare, Ph.D. student in kinesiology, health and sport studies

Coming from a family who is heavily involved in primary care, I thought I would follow suit and pursue a similar path. I came to Wayne State University with those intentions, however those plans were altered in ways that I would not change if given the chance, since they have led me to my life’s work and passion in the field of community health.

I had the privilege of being mentored by women at the forefront of our field, which has taught me to not only be tenacious in a field where hours are long and the politics fierce, but to also reverence the human condition and to exercise a radical empathy to those that you serve in the community. 

The eloquent Dr. Maya Angelou once said that “Surviving is necessary, but thriving is elegant.”

During the fall of 2016, I developed takotsubo cardiomyopathy. I was in and out of hospitals and doctors’ offices, and I spent a lot of time recuperating from procedures. I presently face a new health challenge (unrelated to the first) but am determined to continue to thrive and not let personal adversity get in my way, but rather use it as a gateway for learning empathy and a motivator when undertaking new endeavours. 

As a child of immigrant parents, I know the value of hard work, learning valuable lessons from failure and propelling yourself forward into every opportunity you see. But when I was first asked why I wanted to pursue a doctorate in community health, I could not give a straightforward answer. It was not until my last semester of my undergrad when I attended a presentation given by one my instructors at a conference that I was able to determine my reason. 

As the presentation came to its end, the entire room had come to an “AHA moment” about the importance of keeping the dignity of the human person central to the interventions that we implement as public health professionals. I realized I, too, wanted to help others reach their own “aha moments.”  

Being able to start my career as a community health educator within inner city schools, and underserved communities exposed me to my privilege and the many liberties that I enjoy but that others may not. Having a child thank you for coming into their classroom with food and it being their first meal of the day because of a lack of food at home is a testament to the value of community health initiatives.

As I near the end of my doctoral journey, I no longer have a romanticized vision of my profession. It takes grit, determination, and a tested passion for the field. Being able to empower youth, adults, and communities to make healthier choices and to advocate for equity. Being a community health practitioner is not only a profession, it is a way of life and there is nowhere else and nothing else that I can ever see myself doing.

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