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On the Front Lines of Public Health
On the Front Lines of Public Health
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  • 150th Alumni Stories
  • 150th Anniversary

Mariya Rabovsky-Herrera '06 graduated from the University of San Francisco with a nursing degree. She found her passion in public health and works for the Nurse Home Visiting Program of San Joaquin County, California. The program is crucial to improving maternal and child health outcomes, especially for those living in poverty.

Thank goodness Mariya Rabovsky-Herrera '06 tore her hamstring. It may sound odd, but without the injury the Rowland Hall alumna and public health nurse would not be changing the lives of women and families every day.

When Ms. Rabovsky-Herrera graduated from Rowland Hall in 2006, she wanted to pursue a career in dance. She danced at Rowland Hall and then in the University of Utah's modern dance program. But when Ms. Rabovsky-Herrera tore her hamstring, it forced her to reevaluate her career plans. "I felt like I had failed," she said. But she hadn't failed at all. She was just changing and growing.

With a Rowland Hall education under her belt, Ms. Rabovsky-Herrera knew she could apply her academic skills to explore other options. She ended up moving to California to live with her sister, who was working in a hospital neonatal Intensive Care Unit. This profession sparked Ms. Rabovsky-Herrera's interest, and she soon enrolled at the University of San Francisco to study nursing.

"Nursing is a difficult program, and Rowland Hall definitely prepared me for college," Ms. Rabovsky-Herrera said. She started the program alongside 100 other students, but only about half graduated. She credits Rowland Hall for her study skills, which helped her get through nursing school, and her good judgment, something that a nurse needs on a daily basis.

She also believes her education prepared her socially and emotionally. "It helps with my success and continues to push and drive me to help the community," she said. "I really do appreciate the fact that [Rowland Hall] instilled in me the value of helping others and helping your community."

After six years of school, Ms. Rabovsky-Herrera graduated from the nursing program, passed the state board exam, became a registered nurse, and was ready to begin her new profession. For a time, she considered specializing in labor and delivery because of her passion for families and women's health. But nursing school also piqued her interest in public health. Eventually, Ms. Rabovsky-Herrera found a position that combined her passions and began her nursing career doing home visits with the Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health Department in the California Department of Public Health.

Ms. Rabovsky-Herrera enjoys enlightening people on the field of public health and the role of the health department. Public health encompasses various areas, such as immunizations, programs for pregnant teenagers, and protecting the public from unsafe drinking water. Health departments also vary by state and by county. Federal, state, and county governments fund health departments, so wealthier areas are likely to have more funding than poorer areas. And unfortunately, the poorer areas are also often the ones with the greatest need.

Ms. Rabovsky-Herrera works in California's San Joaquin County, which has a high rate of poverty. People living in poverty face many health-related issues, and poverty is negatively correlated with health outcomes.

Through San Joaquin County's Nurse Home Visiting Program, Ms. Rabovsky-Herrera works with clients who face the challenges of poverty every day. The program is crucial to improving maternal and child health outcomes, especially for those living in poverty. According to the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, "Home visiting programs result in fewer incidences of child injury and neglect, reduced child mortality, fewer subsequent pregnancies, and mothers' greater stability of relationships with partners."

Ms. Rabovsky-Herrera typically has 50 to 60 open cases at any given time, and she visits each of her clients every four to eight weeks. During home visits with pregnant clients, Ms. Rabovsky-Herrera assesses the women's overall health and progress. Once the mother gives birth, Ms. Rabovsky-Herrera returns to assess the health of both mother and baby, checking the child's developmental milestones, weight, and other measurements.

One benefit of the program is that visits last for at least an hour, giving Ms. Rabovsky-Herrera time to assess her clients and their needs. "Public health looks at the whole person," she said. Each case must be treated individually to determine the best path for each client. Much of public health is about listening to the individual and being aware of his or her environment and how that environment affects health and lifestyle choices.

Ms. Rabovsky-Herrera said the hardest part of her job is when a mother experiences a miscarriage, fetal demise, or infant death. The Rowland Hall alumna provides resources to help with funeral costs and bereavement counseling, but it is emotionally difficult.

Additionally, it can be challenging to work with people who don't accept her advice. But Ms. Rabovsky-Herrera maintains a positive attitude and loves the work she does: "Every time I hear a baby laugh it is the best sound in the world!"

She also gets to experience the positive results of her work and intervention. One of Ms. Rabovsky-Herrera's favorite success stories came from a family in which both parents are developmentally delayed. The couple had a baby boy who was underweight and not meeting his milestones. Ms. Rabovsky-Herrera asked the mother to show her how she was mixing the baby's formula. When the mother left the hospital, healthcare professionals gave her detailed instructions on how to mix formula with water in a baby bottle, and what proportions to use. However, as the baby grew and started using a larger bottle, the mother mixed the same amount of formula with an increased amount of water. Before Ms. Rabovsky-Herrera's visits, the new mom didn't understand she needed to increase the quantity of formula as the baby grew.

Ms. Rabovsky-Herrera created a chart for the parents that showed how much formula and water should be mixed together based on bottle size. Within a few weeks, the baby gained weight and caught up on his developmental milestones. Because of the Nurse Home Visiting program and Ms. Rabovsky-Herrera's dedication, she spent enough time with this family to determine their needs and help them.

Ms. Rabovsky-Herrera is an unsung hero. Working on the front lines of public health takes compassion, patience, dedication, and love. We are extremely proud that Ms. Rabovsky-Herrera is an alumna of Rowland Hall. She leads the ethical and productive life we wish for all of our graduates.