A Passion for Public Health, Economics, and Helping Others
Senior Lauren Cherrey seeks out connections between her Public Health and Economics majors and has used them to drive her work abroad and on campus.
By Sarah Stoddard '23
Public Health and Economics major Lauren Cherrey ’21 has had a unique journey during her time at Santa Clara University. Her experience has been filled with an abundance of incredible opportunities, on campus and abroad, that have all intertwined beautifully and allowed Cherrey to use her passions for both public health and economics in a variety of scenarios and spaces. From her work as an intern in organizations abroad to her different roles on campus, Cherrey has impacted the lives of so many people, in so many different ways.
Cherrey actually started her journey at Santa Clara in the bioengineering department on a pre-med track. After her first year, she was awarded the Jean Donovan fellowship—an opportunity to work at a nonprofit organization anywhere in the world and receive funding to intern there. This experience was the reason she decided to change her path at SCU. “I quickly realized I liked looking at things at the community level,” Cherrey says, explaining how her interests shifted from bioengineering to public health. The nonprofit she chose was based in Peru, and for six weeks, she stayed with a host family and worked on several health campaigns, traveling to different hospitals and teaching locals about hygiene and health. “It was there that I realized how frustrated I was with some of these health disparities that other communities in marginalized populations experience, and I realized that I wanted to shift my learning,” Cherry explains.
During this experience, important connections between public health and economics started to reveal themselves. Cherry witnessed many occasions where Peruvian locals were unable to receive medical care due to inefficient processes at hospitals or personal lack of funds. “A lot of that comes down to the economic components and how they can or can't afford to go to the hospital and get care,” Cherrey says. “This drew my interest into this economic empowerment, and how people can use a little bit more economic thinking to create better processes and efficiency within healthcare systems.”
Cherrey has gone on to do much more abroad and on campus, tying her passions for public health and economics into each experience. At Santa Clara, Cherrey worked as a Community Facilitator in Finn Residence Hall’s Residential Learning Community, Cura, which focused on the theme of cura personalis and the eight dimensions of well-being. “It was really interesting because a lot of the theories of public health and different components I learned in those classes were intertwined in these eight dimensions of well-being and how individuals have to look at a holistic sense of themselves to live healthier lives,” Cherrey says.
In Finn Hall, the faculty director, Chan Thai (Communications), created several public health-related surveys of the students in the residence hall which led to Cherrey’s next opportunity on campus which also became her public health internship, a requirement for all majors. “I was able to be on a research team with a couple other CFs, and we helped administer surveys, create some surveys, and do some of the analysis,” Cherrey explains. Cherrey also helped present their findings at a conference and got to run Finn Hall’s Instagram account to create posts promoting health and well-being.
During her last year at Santa Clara, Cherrey participated in yet another incredible opportunity. As a Global Social Benefits Fellow through the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, Cherrey worked with a social enterprise called Koe Koe Tech based in Myanmar. The enterprise ran an application on Facebook that promoted maternal and child health, provided telehealth appointments, and gave information relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. “My partner and I were tasked with helping their digital marketing team do some analysis of how to better use their health promotion content to gain or retain some more of their followers and subscribers,” Cherrey explains. In addition to this, Cherrey also worked with another enterprise, Teach a Man to Fish, which encourages schools to teach students about entrepreneurial skills and create small businesses to help reduce school fees through a new source of income. This allowed Cherrey to use more of her skills in economics. Cherrey’s fellowship has since ended, but her work has continued as she now works for the Miller Center.
This upcoming fall, Cherrey will be attending the London School of Economics and Political Science to earn a master’s degree in International Health Policy (Health Economics). “This program will really be about looking at that exact intersection between public health and healthcare systems and how economic efficiency and economic theory is applied directly to them,” she explains. At Santa Clara, the Public Health Program and Economics Department remain separate, although they complement each other. Cherrey is excited for the opportunity to explore a direct intersection between her two passions in these fields through this master’s program.
All the amazing work Cherrey has done during her time at Santa Clara extends beyond the experiences mentioned here. But the many opportunities throughout her journey have centered around the same theme of the unique intersection between her two passions in public health and economics and her drive to help others. “I’m really thankful for how collaborative the workspace is at Santa Clara, and this ability to engage in conversation is something I really value,” Cherrey says. “The support of our professors, the support of our friends, and the Santa Clara family has really made it a comfortable space to speak up and to speak towards your new ideas and beliefs.” Cherrey is now ending her journey at Santa Clara, and beginning a new one. But the values she has learned here and all the incredible opportunities she has experienced will stay with her through everything she has yet to come.