UCLA Fielding School of Public Health Magazine - September 2020 | Moment of Reckoning

Page 34

Electing

TO SERVE Three Fielding School alumni decided to run for political office to improve their hometown communities — with public health as the cornerstone of their winning campaigns.

MAI VANG (MPH ’11) says the idea of running for public office hadn’t occurred to her when she left her hometown of Sacramento in 2008 to enroll in the Fielding School’s joint MPH/MA in Asian American Studies program. But through her graduate education, Vang — the eldest of 16 children born to Hmong refugee parents from Laos — grew determined to return to make a difference for her community, both from outside and within the political system. She was elected to the Sacramento City school board in 2016, and is now in a November runoff to become a member of the Sacramento City Council. In endorsing Vang’s grassroots candidacy before the primary election in March, the Sacramento Bee’s editorial board called her a “powerhouse” and a “change agent.” A public health education might seem like an unconventional path to take to becoming an elected official. But Vang, along with two other Fielding School alumni who also returned to their hometowns and ran successful campaigns, can think of no better preparation. 32

“We need more elected officials who understand the importance of health and policy so we can change conditions for communities to be healthier.” — Mai Vang, MPH ’11

“I have friends telling me that my master’s in public health is so critical right now, in a global pandemic,” Vang says. “I tell them that was true even before. What we do every day touches public health. We need more elected officials who understand the importance of health and policy so we can change conditions for communities to be healthier.”

AFTER SERVING ON THE SACRAMENTO CITY SCHOOL BOARD, MAI VANG IS IN A NOVEMBER RUNOFF FOR A SEAT ON THE SACRAMENTO CITY COUNCIL.

U C L A F I E L D I N G S C H O O L O F P U B L I C H E A LT H M AG A Z I N E


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