I AM FPHLP 2016: Aovai Cole

Aovai ColeAovai Cole was part of the 2016 FPHLP cohort. She is currently a senior attending the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she majors in Biology. Last summer, her field placement was with the Community Health and Social Services (CHASS) Center in Detroit, MI. Aovai conducted qualitative interviews to assess the success of integrating community health workers into CHASS. She also promoted healthy eating and healthy lifestyle choices each week at a local farmers market.

Aovai most appreciates the interactions she had with others during the program. While visiting the CDC and at the University of Michigan, she recalls, "I was so blessed that I could meet and talk with accomplished healthcare professionals who gave me advice and tips on how to reach my goals." Aovai also found it was rewarding to spend time with other college students in her same situation, who had shared interests.

Like many of her peers, Aovai felt challenged to step outside her comfort zone. She says, "I learned so much, but it was only because I was able to take risks and be comfortable with being uncomfortable." By balancing the expectations and workload of being a participant, Aovai was prepared to take advantage of every opportunity that presented itself!

Since completing the program, Aovai has taken on a greater leadership role in her work doing student outreach for minority students. She is also studying for the GRE and applying to graduate programs in public health to earn her MPH. In the future, Aovai hopes to work with a community health organization like CHASS. "I believe that working closely with the community and having strong ties with the people and place are the ingredients for a successful health system," she says.

Thinking back to what led her to participate in FPHLP, Aovai describes wanting real-world experience and a chance to work with other minority college students. She encourages anyone considering the program to apply: "FPHLP was the reason I was able to step out of my comfort zone and it gave me the confidence to pursue what I wanted. This was a life changing experience, and I believe that everyone who participates in FPHLP will become a better student, healthcare professional, and person because of it. An opportunity like this really only comes once in a lifetime, so if you get the chance, do not hesitate!"