MSW-MPH student advocates for equitable healthcare
Our formative years are supposed to be a time of carefree fun, but for David Cicala, a student pursuing the joint Master of Social Work and Master of Public Health degree, they were riddled with medical emergencies.
“I had pulmonary stenosis at birth, was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes at age 7, and faced cardiac issues at age twenty,” David says.
But he had access to healthcare and a familial support system that helped him overcome these hurdles to a healthy life.
“After recognizing the role of privilege and access to these resources, I committed myself to fighting for equitable health outcomes for all.”
The first step: pursuing a B.S. in neuroscience at the University of Michigan, where he took courses in public health and medical ethics.
“I learned there are not clear-cut solutions to problems and that it can be difficult to define what is ‘ethical’,” but that “if we give people the means and the know-how to succeed, we can promote better health outcomes.”
Inspired to educate the public, equip them with the tools to lead healthy lives, and change healthcare for the better, he chose Wayne State because the university was about to launch the dual M.S.W.-M.P.H. program. Given the option to be the first in the program, he took it.
The program and Wayne State’s Detroit location allow David to work with underserved populations through a community-based perspective.
“Having the opportunity to know clients from a different socioeconomic background than myself has opened my eyes to the staggering effects of lacking resources, especially in the treatment of diabetes.”
As project coordinator for a research study at two student-run clinics, Diabetes Education Wellness Clinic and the Community Homeless Interprofessional Program, David and his team use text messages to remind patients with type-2 diabetes of monthly appointments and individualized goals.
The students work with peers from various disciplines, from nutrition and occupational therapy to pharmacy and medicine, to help patients form holistic goals they believe are achievable, he says.
“It’s not a doctor telling them they need to ‘lose X lbs by next month.’ … Uplifting [the patients], as opposed to directing them, helps promote tangible health outcomes.”
He’s also an intern in the Office of Patient Experience at Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor, where he helps recommend and implement policies and training to improve the patient experience.
“Last semester, I was able to apply epidemiology skills toward analyzing data to better understand the reasons for patient-physician relationship termination and patients leaving against medical advice,” he says. “I was also able to help with the development of a civil rights engagement project to establish non-discrimination policies to ensure proper document translation, interpreter utilization, and equity with current policies.”
After graduation, David wants to continue advocating for personalized patient support and improved access to healthcare.
“I’d love to work for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but I also want to work where I can have the most impact on health equity in the US.”