Making Public Health Personal

Making Public Health Personal is a podcast brought to you by CUNY SPH. Each episode focuses on an aspect of health and social justice that affects our daily lives. Learn from CUNY SPH’s expert faculty, researchers, alumni and students on how public health policy, advocacy and practices can benefit our ever-evolving community, and our world. You don’t have to work in healthcare or have a PhD to understand these topics. We break them down for you and give you practical tips to make a difference, big or small.

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Sergio RRodriguez MPHP Episode art


In this episode:

Episode 8: Dysfunctional Healthcare, Puerto Rico and Beyond

If you think the healthcare system in the United States is over-complicated and inequitable, you might be surprised to learn about the corruption and lack of access to and affordability of healthcare that most citizens of Puerto Rico face. In this episode of the Making Public Health Personal podcast, CUNY SPH doctoral student Sergio Rivera Rodriguez, MPH gives us context on the political history of Puerto Rico and how their healthcare system became what it is today.

Host Laura Meoli-Ferrigon inquires about Sergio’s current research project which aims to expand health care coverage to every citizen on the island. Based on his data collection and analysis, he describes the differences in access, utilization, and cost of health care services by health insurance status, including the elderly and people living in poverty. This data is severely lacking in Puerto Rico, where there is not even an accurate count of how many people are uninsured. In order to create efficient policy reforms, hold private health insurance companies accountable for their spending, and adequately fund public programs (such as medicare and medicaid), this data is essential.

What is the solution to Puerto Rico’s healthcare woes? How can we use this research into Puerto Rico’s system to create better healthcare access, affordability and satisfaction here in the United States? Are the other healthcare systems that other countries have in place working more effectively? The answers may surprise you.


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Episode Links:

Contact and find out more about Sergio Rivera Rodriguez’s project:

Previous Episodes

MPHP graphic - ep 7 Lynn Roberts

Community organizing goes beyond protesting and posting on social media. It’s finding a cause you’re passionate about, joining with other people, and using your collective voices to make a difference. In this episode of the Making Public Health Personal podcast, we share tips for being an ally for social justice, even if you aren’t part of the community most impacted by injustice.

Our featured guest, Dr. Lynn Roberts, is the Associate Dean of Student Affairs and Alumni Relations and teaches in the department of Community Health and Social Sciences at CUNY SPH. She speaks with host Laura Meoli-Ferrigon about the collective efforts to advance sexual and reproductive health, rights and justice, providing strategies on how to get involved with strategies to raise awareness, including storytelling and coalition building. We discuss how advocates and community organizers in the digital age use strategies informed by the leaders of our past, to empower collective movements.

Dr. Roberts is an emeritus board member of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective. As the co-editor and contributing author of an acclaimed anthology titled “Radical Reproductive Justice: Foundations, Theory, Practice, Critique”, Dr. Roberts shares her personal commitment to radical reproductive justice in this episode. She explains how women of color, Indigenous people, the LGBTQIA+ community and many others face historic and contemporary challenges to human rights and health equity, stemming from years of systemic oppression. This is important to her research, which focuses on the intersections of race, class and gender in adolescent dating relationships, juvenile justice and reproductive health policies and practice.


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Episode Links:

Radical Reproductive Justice:

SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective:

Contact & find out more about Dr. Lynn Roberts:

MPHP episode 6 art Jeanette Rodriguez

April is Disability Awareness Month at CUNY and this month’s episode of Making Public Health Personal explores disability and accessibility in higher education. Year-round, students with disabilities face added obstacles that make pursuing an education challenging. Disabilities can range from physical to mental, and often come with stigma that can be a barrier to seeking help. All college students, even graduate and doctoral students, are eligible for accommodations if they have medical documentation of their disability. They just have to know who at their school to reach out to for support. CUNY SPH students have the Office of Accessibility Services in their corner to help them succeed.

In this episode of the Making Public Health Personal podcast, we speak with Jeanette Rodriguez, the Disability Coordinator for students at CUNY SPH. Jeanette has worked in various roles at CUNY SPH since 2014. In addition to advocating for students with disabilities, she is also currently the Executive Assistant to the dean of the school. Her passion is to help others and encourage her community to give back to those in need.

Host Laura Meoli-Ferrigon speaks with Jeanette about the accommodations available to students with disabilities, and how they can obtain that support. We explore what exactly is considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and future plans for the office to increase participation, eliminate stigma, and bring more awareness to the topic of student accessibility.


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Episode Links:

CUNY Disability Awareness month events:

To inquire and/or request accommodations with the Office of Accessibility at CUNY SPH, email:

Office of Accessibility Services at CUNY SPH:

CUNY Disability Services:

CUNY Coalition for Students with Disabilities:

Children & Adults with ADHD podcasts:


Ivonne Quiroz Episode Art

Adapting to a new life on the other side of the country while pursuing a PhD in the midst of a pandemic is no simple feat. In this episode of Making Public Health Personal, CUNY SPH doctoral student Ivonne Quiroz shares the story of her journey as a nontraditional student pursuing a public health education. Ivonne speaks with host Laura Meoli-Ferrigon about her passion for food justice, race, culture, and health. She also opens up about how she personally navigates challenges with ADHD and hopes that her story can illuminate for other neurodivergent students and students with disabilities that they too can navigate their own path to success.

Ivonne Quiroz is from California and graduated with a master’s degree in public health from the University of California, Irvine. She also has a bachelor’s degree in biology from San Francisco State University. Despite the physical distance from where she built her former career as an Organizational Director for social organizations on the West Coast, New York City was the perfect place for her to pursue a doctoral degree in Community Health and Health Policy. Not only is NYC diverse, but the programs available at CUNY SPH were a perfect fit for Ivonne. While the pandemic’s shift to fully online learning allowed her to balance her educational and career opportunities, the flexible classes regularly available at CUNY SPH allow Ivonne to thrive. While pursuing her PhD, she has gained experience as an adjunct faculty, teaching a course on Health Equity, Communication and Advocacy – a great resume builder for someone who wants to pursue research in higher education. Ivonne has also found career opportunities through her connections with CUNY SPH professors, as a research assistant at the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute. Her personal mission as a Latina and public health advocate is being realized now, and surely will continue post-graduation.

For students interested in a similar path but not sure where to begin, this episode sheds light on the application process for a public health degree, the flexibility of CUNY SPH’s programs, and the career-building opportunities available to students. Ivonne’s story gives hope for anyone who doesn’t fit the mold of a traditional college student, but hopes to make a difference in the world.


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Episode Links:

Centralized application for public health programs:

Disordered eating and food insecurity research:


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From valedictorian to vaccine advocate, the path to a successful career is not a predictable one — especially when you are pursuing your Master of Public Health degree during a pandemic. CUNY SPH Class of 2021 valedictorian Hannah Stuart Lathan shares her story with host Laura Meoli-Ferrigon in this episode. Lathan discusses her research and efforts around vaccination, and her journey to obtain her Master of Public Health degree and leveraging it to success in her career.

Hannah Stuart is from South Carolina and graduated with a degree in Journalism and Public Health from the University of South Carolina Honors College. She then made her way to New York City, working as a sexual health educator and counselor and later pursuing her MPH in Community Health, with a specialization in Maternal, Child, Reproductive and Sexual Health, at CUNY SPH. In addition to being selected valedictorian of her class, she also received the Dean’s Academic Achievement Award. Her research with faculty began while she was a student at CUNY SPH, and she was able to work full time while completing her degree. The professional connections she made here at CUNY SPH set her up with opportunities that continued beyond graduation. She also credits CUNY’s affordability for allowing her to graduate without student loan debt.

Currently, this hard working alumna is Program Manager for CONVINCE USA and the New York Vaccine Literacy Campaign at CUNY SPH, which supports community-based efforts to increase vaccine uptake through education and communication. She leads programmatic activities and events, and works to identify and mitigate concerns about vaccination. Her story is one that was not predictable, but surely is inspiring.


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Episode Links:

Vaccine hesitancy research:

Op-Ed on key considerations for employers contemplating covid 19 vaccine requirements:

Vaccine Literacy Campaign and data:

Event videos from Vaccine Literacy Campaign at CUNY SPH (including, “Speaking to your loved ones about getting vaccinated”):
NYC vaccine referral bonus program:


MPHP Ep3 Denis Nash

The HIV/AIDS pandemic has been around since the 1980s and over 36 million people have died of AIDS. Today over 37 million people are living with HIV, globally. With breakthroughs in prevention, treatment and care coordination in recent years, there are still barriers to achieving optimal HIV care outcomes. In the U.S., these barriers are intersecting epidemics such as mental health and substance abuse, unstable housing, and incarceration. This episode of Making Public Health Personal explores the unique challenges and stigma associated with HIV in the U.S., and how far medical interventions and public programs have come to improve the quality of life for people living with HIV. We also explore how lessons learned from the HIV pandemic can inform our response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the pandemics of the future.

Host Laura Meoli-Ferrigon from the SPH Office of Online Learning is joined by Dr. Denis Nash, Distinguished Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at CUNY SPH. He is also the Executive Director of CUNY’s Institute for Implementation Science in Population Health. Dr. Nash has over 20 years of experience in infectious disease epidemiology on a national and global scale. He has published over 250 scientific articles and his research is primarily funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In this episode, we will learn about his research projects which focus on improving the outcomes of people living with HIV in the Ryan White Program, an HIV care coordination intervention for people at very high risk of bad HIV care outcomes. We also discuss his new research on HIV injectables and the CHASING COVID Cohort study, to find similarities that can help us better respond to future pandemics.


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Episode Links:

CUNY’s Institute for Implementation Science in Population Health:

The CHASING COVID Cohort Study:

The CHORDS Study in NYC’s Ryan White Program:

The PROMISE Study in NYC’s Ryan White Program:

The APPLI Study of Long Acting Injectable ART in the Ryan White Program

Ryan White services in NYC:

Contact & find out more about Denis Nash:

Brian Pavilonis podcast episode 2 info

With schools opening up to in-person learning, offices welcoming back their workers, and the winter chill keeping us indoors, you might be wondering how to stay healthy and reduce your risk of catching a cold, the flu, or other airborne illnesses during indoor gatherings and in public settings. Is a child more likely to contract covid-19 from a classmate or from their teacher? How well-ventilated are NYC classrooms? Is it safe to go back to your cubicle? How can business owners, schools and landlords prepare for the next pandemic? The answers may surprise you. ​

In this episode of Making Public Health Personal, host Laura Meoli-Ferrigon is joined by Dr. Brian Pavilonis, Associate Professor at CUNY SPH and a certified industrial hygienist, to discuss some of his recent research and the important takeaways that are essential for ensuring safe post-pandemic classrooms and workplaces. Dr. Pavilonis’ study of occupational health and exposure science focuses on quantifying human exposure and risk to environmental pollutants, especially for disadvantaged workers and communities. We examine the current laws in place which mandate proper indoor ventilation in New York, and how enforcement is essential to truly protecting workers and communities.


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Episode Links:

To file a complaint on behalf of nail salon workers or other workers who you believe are in poorly ventilated spaces, visit: www.DOS.NY.GOV/file-consumer-complaint or call the consumer assistance line: 800-697-1220

To report unsafe working conditions or inadequate ventilation measures on the job visit:

Dr. Pavilonis’ research on NYC school ventilation and nail salon worker safety:

Contact & find out more about Dr. Brian Pavilonis:


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The inaugural episode of Making Public Health Personal examines how to separate legitimate research from clickbait. Host Laura Meoli-Ferrigon is joined by Dr. Mary Schooling, chair of the Department of Environmental, Occupational, and Geospatial Health Sciences at CUNY SPH, who discusses how to understand different types of research studies, and key terms to look for when deciphering good research from sensational headlines.

While it may be convenient, it is also dangerous to rely on quick social media headlines or secondhand information when making public and personal health decisions. At the same time, medical research studies can seem overwhelmingly complicated and hard to understand, if we can locate them at all. In this episode, we discuss how you don’t need a medical or public health background to learn how to locate, identify, and understand reliable research data and studies. We also discuss the checks and balances the research community has in place to weed out unethical research practices.


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Episode Links: (Direct source of public health research studies available to all, curated by the National Library of Medicine) (Reminder: always check sources on this platform) (Another direct source of public health research studies available to all)

About Dr. Schooling’s research on salt & cardiovascular disease:

Contact & find out more about Dr. Mary Schooling: