Hi everyone! My name is Devin Valdes, and I am a fourth-year undergraduate combination degree student in the Bachelor of Health Science and Master of Public Health (Epidemiology) on the pre-medical track! I am from Treasure Island, Florida – yes, I miss the beach very much. However, I have come to love the hidden gems (especially the local restaurants) and the wonderful community that makes up Gainesville. Other hobbies that I enjoy outside of school are cooking and baking for myself and my friends, being outside and active (soccer, swimming, biking, group fitness classes at RecSports), and appreciating/creating music any time of the day!
Coming from a family of immigrants, I am so grateful for the sacrifices that have been made for me to continually educate myself and obtain a greater perspective about those around me. Therefore, I want to be able to serve the strong and vibrant communities that have supported me, while also being able to advocate, alongside these groups, for the equitable progress that is needed in our society. This drive is what led me to join organizations throughout my time at the University of Florida.
Throughout my time at UF, I have learned that straying from a pre-determined plan (though scary) was one of the best things to ever happen. As I look back towards freshman year, I am so grateful for every opportunity that presented itself to me as I was able to become more well-rounded as an individual while also discovering new passions that have led to the most enriching experiences. The only “plan” that I had going into these new opportunities was to let my passion shine through and guide me. This is how I had the privilege of becoming involved with opportunities that have defined my time here at the University of Florida.
The College of Public Health and Health Professions has provided me with a strong foundation for what I want to pursue in the future, while also allowing me to interact/collaborate/learn from some of the most passionate peers and faculty members I have met during my time here. In just these two short years, being part of PHHP has offered guidance toward my future ambitions and how to achieve them, created new opportunities to discover topics I am passionate about, and holistically understand what it means to be an aspiring healthcare professional. If it was not for PHHP, I would not have known about the BHS-MPH combination degree program, which has already been such an enriching experience. These sentiments are largely due to the guidance from my academic advisor, Dr. Michael Moorhouse, who has continuously displayed his genuine dedication to his students’ personal and professional success and the advancement of this next generation of leaders. Within this college, I also had the opportunity to participate in the honors program, where I was able to conduct research in the Sensory Development Lab with an amazing research team under the guidance of Dr. Bodison.
During undergrad, I became involved with the Equal Access Clinic Network (EACN) as a Health Outreach Quality Improvement (HOQI) volunteer. I was drawn to this organization because of its dedicated mission statement and the vital care they provide to, often underserved, communities in Gainesville and surrounding areas that lack proper access to quality healthcare service. Currently, I serve as the network-wide HIV Coordinator and the Main St. Clinic Coordinator, where my main focus is ensuring patient-centered care and advocating for our patients. Words cannot express how incredible/humbling of an experience serving in these roles has been due to the tremendous growth I have experienced, not just as an aspiring healthcare provider, but as an individual.
Another organization that has defined my team here at UF is Dream Team. I have the privilege of volunteering in the Shands pediatric intensive care and pediatric cardiac intensive care unit while getting to spend time with the patients there. My volunteer shifts are one of the highlights of my week, as I get to form meaningful relationships and help bring joy/support to kids during scary and vulnerable times. Being surrounded by like-minded volunteers who truly have a passion to brighten the lives of individuals and providing hope is a rare experience that I am grateful to partake in.
After graduating with my bachelor’s degree, I will be in Gainesville for an extra year (feel free to say hi!) to complete my MPH program and continue research/volunteering/working. Following this, I plan to take a gap year to work in either a clinical or public health setting while preparing for medical school to pursue my goal of becoming a physician! I am so thankful to everyone who has supported me on this journey, and cannot wait to see where the future will lead! Thank you to both the University of Florida and the College of Public Health and Health Professions BHS program!
Feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions!