Sienna Marley, Honors ’22 (Public Health): “Thoughtful technology can be the liaison of information to the public”

Sienna Marley is an Honors Fellow studying Public Health with a minor in Forestry. Last year, she was a Health + Tech Fellow. Here, she shares about her honors project and her passion for helping her community.

Tell us about yourself!

My name is Sienna Marley and I am a fourth-year student studying Public Health. I am originally from the East Bay and I am deeply passionate about giving back to my local community.

What do you study and why did you choose it?

Growing up, I lived with eight grandparents. Two of them were my biological grandparents, and the other six were residents of my mother’s care home for the elderly. I spent countless afternoons eagerly listening to residents’ life stories over games of bingo. I saw the ins and outs of how a small-scale health care facility operated and developed a deep passion for public health. This desire to study diseases and intervention models on a higher level continued after my freshman year at the Summer Health Professions Education Program. Working with underserved communities at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine and the surrounding Los Angeles area, my team was given the task of creating an intervention model for postpartum depression for African-American mothers. We took a step back and looked upstream where we saw that a mobile clinic could aid in these pain points in accessing primary care facilities and preventative screening. Asking questions about their physical environment and ability to access health care made me feel drawn and invested in the interdisciplinary nature of public health; and when I returned to Berkeley the following semester, I switched my major from Molecular and Cell Biology to Public Health.

It was here, in my classes at Berkeley, that I grasped how equity is the foundation of public health. This has been translated through my involvement with University Health Services (UHS) for the past two and a half years, where I have learned to take initiative and produce results in a teamwork environment while maintaining this principle. Starting at the Information Center, a focal point for reception, I became prepared for a fast-paced work environment while handling a diverse student population and providing individual confidential health information. Now as a Student Assistant Lead, I have taken on a larger leadership role in overseeing 15 student assistants and streamlining projects involving auditing and data entry. When the COVID-19 pandemic arose, I was at the forefront of what disease surveillance and a successful primary intervention model would look like on a university campus.

“I was at the forefront of what disease surveillance and a successful primary intervention model would look like on a university campus.”

What led you to apply and join the Fung Fellowship?

I heard about the Fung Fellowship through the Public Health newsletter and wanted to be part of a team that is designing a way to make public health issues more accessible. I think it is critical to understand the way the public interacts with public health issues, and how thoughtful technology can be the liaison of information to the public. I am very passionate about working with a community of people who seek to spark change, and this program gives students the resources and tools to do so. I was largely motivated to explore issues in bridging the gap between marginalized communities and the health risks they face.

What are your professional goals?

Through my experiences I have developed a style that focuses on collaboration — from aligning with my peers and staff at University Health Services, mentees at the Fung Fellowship, and lab members at the Niyogi Lab, I have found a need for clarity, communication, and mutuality. I am interested in pursuing a career in healthcare because it combines my strengths in critical thinking, collaboration, and work ethic to find innovative solutions to complex problems. The Fung Fellowship has provided me with unique project management experiences and storytelling skills that I plan on continuing to bring this perspective to my future colleagues. If there is one thing I have learned in the past 16 years of education and two years of Fung Fellowship involvement, it is that every opportunity offers time to learn and grow from others around us.

“The Fung Fellowship has provided me with unique project management experiences and storytelling skills that I plan on continuing to bring this perspective to my future colleagues.”

How has the Fung Fellowship impacted you? What’s your Honors project?

During my junior year, I wanted to translate local public health issues into sustainable and inclusive solutions. The Health + Tech experience opened my eyes to using human-centered design in creating impact-driven positive change. In projects for underrepresented students and elderly adults, we developed storyboards after interviews to bring empathy to these solutions. Now, as an Honors Fellow, I am pushed to build deeper relationships with established community partners. This past year, I have been working with the Hoopa Valley Tribe on mitigating toxic algal blooms and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contaminants in the Trinity River. Chronic diseases have been directly linked to their water source and sacred cultural sites. Through weekly meetings with the members of the Tribal EPA, we are co-designing a podcast surrounding environmental health literacy and additional education methods to assist this high-risk population.

Visiting the reservation this past November completely challenged my assumptions and perspective surrounding public health interventions. Prior to visiting the reservation, my team made sure to come in with as much cultural sensitivity by interviewing experts around community-based health participatory research, archeology, and indigenous basket weavers. Talking to tribal members at a local arts fair gave context about the growing pains of living on a reservation. It was so clear how connected these individuals are to the land that their ancestors have lived on for 10,000 years. Understanding both issues of water quality and tribal relations solidified my decision to go into the public health field, specifically environmental epidemiology.

“Visiting the reservation this past November completely challenged my assumptions and perspective surrounding public health interventions.”

What kind of impact do you want to have on the world?

Being from the East Bay, the fellowship gives me the chance to come up with solutions that directly affect my community. This has been incredibly rewarding in identifying local public health problems and being able to step in to produce tangible change.

What are some of your hobbies and passions?

This past year I have explored and experienced first-hand how the changing environment can have a direct impact on one’s health. This past summer I attended UC Berkeley’s Forestry Camp which taught me so many skills on how to interact effectively with communities in their environment. I have been applying similar critical thinking skills in building community relations within my Honors project. As our physical world continues to change, there is a growing need for public health professionals to better understand environmental epidemiology and how to use biomonitoring data to effectively show patterns in disease, specifically in rural communities. This has fueled new energy and passion to work alongside communities that are experiencing first-hand how the changing environment directly impacts their health. This program has been used as a continuation of my education in using evidence-based approaches to bridge the gap between environmental exposures and the social, political, and economic factors that may limit access to health care.

Connect with Sienna.

Edited by Danielle Valdez.

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