Pritma “Mickey” Irizarry says she was inspired to enter the field of health education and health promotion in high school. Back then, she felt like there was a lot missing from her county’s health curriculum, especially in the level of information given to the students.

Irizarry holds a bachelor’s degree in public and community health from the University of Maryland, College Park and a master’s in applied sociology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore. She is also a certified health education specialist. Irizarry took on the role of health education coordinator at the University of Maryland, Baltimore and will soon transition to acting as assistant director.

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What are the responsibilities of your current role? 

“I oversee students in the peer health education program here at UMBC. I am the primary person involved in everything. I teach their weekly class during the semester, and I manage all of the program requests for freshmen level courses, resident halls, student organizations and whoever else might want the peer health educators to facilitate a health program for them. I manage all of the marketing for the University Health Services department and all health education events, campaigns, etc. I supervise a marketing/design intern and implement large and small-scale health education events year-round that are open to the campus community on a variety of topics. I do a lot of evaluation and data collection about our students’ health needs.”

What is your favorite part about your daily duties?

“I love the daily interaction with my students. My office is like the hangout spot for the peer health educators as well, so even if they are not in here specifically because they are working, I still get to see them regularly and catch up with them.”

How has your education and training prepared you for your current role?

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“My senior year internship was to help run a health education office out of the student rec center/gym on campus and also oversee a peer education program, so I considered myself super fortunate to find a full-time professional position that almost mirrored my internship. Since I have been at UMBC, I have continued to grow and build upon my skills as a health educator and also delve into new areas such as marketing, management, supervision, etc.”

What do you do to continue your education and training?

“I attend local or national conferences (at least one per year) to network and get updates about work in my field and also bring back best practices to my program. I attend in-service training and staff development opportunities at UMBC throughout the year on various topics.”

Do you have any advice for others looking to enter this field?

“Don’t be afraid to push boundaries. This is still a relatively ‘young’ field that I think will only continue to grow as society begins to understand the importance of health promotion and primary prevention as it relates to healthcare, our economy and our nation’s overall success.”

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Laura Catherine Hermoza has a lifelong love for writing. In addition to serving as a contributor to various media publications, she is also a published novelist of several books and works as a proofreader/editor. LC resides in Baltimore County.