Public health student Christopher Otieno wants to bring light to his community “Stand up for yourself and remember who you are”
Originally from Richmond, Kentucky, Christopher Otieno is a current student in the Bachelor of Public Health (BPH) program at the University of Kentucky’s College of Public Health (CPH), along with a minor in communication at the University of Kentucky.
Christopher is also enrolled in the popular Accelerated Bachelor of Public Health/Master of Public Health (MPH) 4+1 University Scholars program with a concentration in epidemiology. Christopher will graduate in Spring of 2023 with his BPH and in 2024 with his MPH degrees.
Christopher was also accepted into the Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center (SCoBIRC) African American Research Training Scholars (AARTS) program, an opportunity to receive up to 12 months of funded research training in neurotrauma at the University of Kentucky’s College of Medicine.
“This experience blessed me with two amazing mentors in Dr. Rachel Hogg-Graham (Assistant Professor in the Health Management & Policy department at CPH) and Emily Clear (Research Program Manager, Office of Scientific Writing at CPH),” says Christopher.
“Everyone at the SCoBIRC are amazing people and the experience has been great. My biggest take away so far is to do research in something that means something to you. I plan to continue to do research and then present my findings later this academic year,” adds Christopher.
Christopher has remained involved and connected while being a full-time student at the University of Kentucky. He has participated in several valuable internships, made the Dean’s list every year, and is a current Senior Resident Advisor (SRA) on campus.
“The accomplishment I hold most dear to my heart since being at UK is I have been blessed to meet so many people who have had a tremendous impact on my life and I think is what college is all about,” says Christopher.
For Christopher, all his personal and academic accomplishments would not be possible without his parents and family members who played an influential role in his life.
“I have the best mom and dad to look up to and I never take that for granted,” says Christopher. “Both my parents were born and raised in Kenya, so all though I was born in Kentucky, I have been raised in an African household where my parents instilled those values in me since I was born.”
“Both my parents have gone on to receive their doctorates, so I am blessed to have two people I can always go to academically and can also just go to for anything. I also have an older brother and younger sister who are both in college who have both shaped me into who I am today. So, my family has been the biggest influence in my life,” Christopher adds.
Many students find themselves pursuing public health education and careers because they want to make an impact in creating healthier communities and help as many people as possible. For Christopher, his motivations are remarkably similar.
“I chose public health because I knew it was a field that I could have a true impact in,” says Christopher. “We learn in all our public health classes that the goal of public health is not to only focus on individuals, but to focus on entire communities. If I can go out into the workforce and bring some light into communities and populations who feel like they are not being heard and seen, then I will know I am where I need to be.”
“Another motivating factor for me is we need to see more students of color in the healthcare field because representation in all fields matter. Hopefully, one day I’ll talk to a classroom full of kids and inspire a kid that looks like me to show him/her it is possible,” adds Christopher.
Christopher’s career aspiration remains steadfast, which is becoming an epidemiologist and investigating health issues by analyzing data to improve the health of the public.
“My CPH courses have taught me how to go out into communities and collect information, analyze data, apply results, and turn them into programs and interventions that can truly make a difference,” says Christopher. “I still have a lot of learning to do, but my courses and faculty have helped me get ready for this type of career by showing me how to realistically and efficiently go out into the world and do this important work.”
The University of Kentucky remains committed to being a home to decades of rich Black history. This month continues to remain an opportunity to commemorate the lives, struggles and achievements of Black Americans.
When asked what Black History month means to him, Christopher said,” Black History Month is never forgetting the people that have paved the way before us. One of my favorite quotes is from Martin Luther King, Jr. and he said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’.”
“There is a still a lot of injustice all around us and often people try to push that to the side. I believe Black History Month can be awake up call to the injustice that is occurring all around us, people need to remember it does not just end after February. Black history month is a reminder to always stand up for yourself and remember who you are despite what others may think of you,” adds Christopher.
Christopher admits that one of the biggest obstacles that he faced as a college student is sometimes doubting his capabilities. To overcome this, Christopher continues to remind himself how far he has come, as well as so many others before him. He also states that he is surrounded by people who lift him up during those moments of doubt.