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Sally Cabrera is a master of public health student in the Gillings School of Global Public Health who is focused on community-based research to influence public health policy. With a lens of epidemiological methods, she seeks to enhance the relevance and use of research data that would influence policy and benefit communities.

Sally Cabrera standing in front of mountains.
Sally Cabrera


New York City, New York

Area of Study:

Master’s of Public Health—Applied epidemiology

What motivates you?

My motivation stems from experiencing and seeing the inequities that exist in my community. I realized I could serve vulnerable populations by using my own lived experiences as a baseline and conducting research using epidemiological methods. Community-based research would allow me to influence public health policy, better address social determinants of health, and reduce health disparities among immigrant, working-class Americans, Latinx populations, and other vulnerable groups. I realized how important it was for me to enter the field and conduct culturally competent and humble research, which would enhance the relevance and use of research data that would influence policy and benefit communities. Understanding my own positionality is key to me realizing that conducting meaningful public health work, bridging potential cultural gaps, overcoming community distrust, and coming up with significant solutions that will positively impact these communities.

Why UNC-Chapel Hill?

My experiences prepared me for epidemiology graduate studies at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, where I am exploring my theories and assembling ideas for bettering health outcomes when there is public doubt in these communities. At Gillings, I am a Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellow, where I am taking courses in Japanese language and area studies to develop interpersonal skills and knowledge to better connect with Japanese people, which is useful for when I conduct independent research and communicate directly with participants, medical officials, and professionals. This is especially important to me since it would be significant to directly connect with Japanese people and have meaningful discourse about their personal lives and have sensitive conversations, without using translators as intermediaries. Using my knowledge of epidemiology, I will be able to epidemiologically describe the burden of the public health problem of illness in contemporary American society and among vulnerable communities and identify and analyze policies and financial resources that affect the delivery of health care services. These learning objectives create a space for me to step into where I can successfully design, lead, and execute research that will inform policy. At UNC-Chapel Hill, Gillings is home to researchers that study the biological and social mechanisms of health disparities throughout an individual’s lifetime, which is one of the reasons why I decided on this graduate program. Additionally, my faculty mentor has been extremely supportive during this stressful semester, further cementing my confidence that I made the right decision to attend Gillings. The students that I met here have also been a source of support for me, which I am very thankful for.

How have you built community at Carolina?

Through the obstacles of moving far from home, I have learned to adapt and have become better at looking ahead. Moving to North Carolina for my graduate degree came with challenges, but I have found my circle of support on campus. This community grows as I meet new people. We support each other by working through assignments together, studying together, checking in on each other, and just being there for each other. This is my community at Carolina.

Describe DSS in five words!

Supportive, humility, determination, compassion, teamwork.

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