Being the “underdog” of the McCarthy Fellows

Jaileez Campos

Jaileez Campos
2015 McCarthy Fellow
Department of Housing and Community Development

I have recently graduated from the University of San Francisco in May 2015. I received my degree in B.S. Biology with Minors in Chemistry & Neuroscience. With a scientific focus all throughout my undergraduate career, how did I end up becoming one of the McCarthy Fellows in Sacramento? During my last semester at USF, I began to contemplate various career choices. I always thought I could “change the world from here” by being a physician and healing the lives of people. Throughout the semester during my sociology class, it dawned on me that there might be another career out there for me that would allow me to heal the lives of people on a regional scale. Healing the lives of a large regional group of people through public health policy would help improve the physical, mental, and socioeconomic health. Prior to my sociology class, I was exposed to public health policy through my internship at UCSF. Thus, when I heard about the McCarthy Fellowship in Sacramento, I applied because it was an opportunity for me to explore a career in health career. Through my interactions with the female participants from poor socioeconomic backgrounds, I felt angry about the socioeconomic gap that exists in American society. The socioeconomic gap was the cause of health repercussions, such as elevated stress levels, increased risk of obesity, shorter life span, suppression of immune system, and malnutrition. At the start of college, I used to strive to make myself better. Now, I realize that I can improve myself by striving to make my surrounding environment better. Thus, I was drawn to the McCarthy Fellows program because I found it to be an opportunity for me to grow by incorporating public service, public health, and public outreach.

One of the biggest challenges that I may face during this program is being the “underdog”. Given my science-based background, I need to familiarize myself with California politics more so than others in my cohort. Previously, I have abstained from politics because I thought it was “too complex”. But, politics does not differ too much from the biological sciences. Nothing is really complex—it can easily be broken down into simple components. It is through the understanding of the simple components and their relationships to one another that we understand its complexity. My scientific method of analytical thinking may not be applicable in the political realm. Thus, I will have to find a way to either alter my old ways of critical and analytical thinking, or find a new method. I need to familiarize myself with the new jargon, acronyms, and writing styles. Thus, it may take awhile for me to fully understand a topic or document. As of right now, the biggest challenge is overcoming the overwhelming feeling of being a “beginner”…

I am currently working at the Department of Housing & Community Development (HCD) at the Division of Financial Assistance (DFA) branch. I have been analyzing fiscal data from several different affordable low-income housing projects throughout California and determining strategies to preserve affordability. Another project that I am doing this summer is I am working on a geographic information system (GIS) platform for HCD. GIS will map the housing project, then other data can be laid on top of this map to help provide information about the correlation about housing, demographics of residents, environment, and public health. I am currently gathering public health data about the residents and the housing projects, such as the distance away from health clinics, hospitals, and a grocery store that is a participating in food stamp programs. GIS will allow HCD to plan, develop, and improve new and existing housing projects. Through my projects this summer, I have the opportunity to exemplify how housing is a social determinant of health.

I hope to learn more about the how housing and community development is linked to public health in California. My personal goal is to feel more optimistic about society by contributing to projects that can help influence public policy and politics in California. The focus on fair and affordable housing is a huge focus and all-eyes are on HCD, especially after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling about “disparate impact” in housing. By improving California, it can serve as a model state of positive change for the rest of the United States of America.

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