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Q&A - Gerald Montero, 2014 public health student

Serving others in active duty and civilian life

Gerald Montero is a first-year public health student and a national guardsman who recently returned from a medical mission trip in Honduras.

After serving in the Army as a medic for nearly seven years, Montero wanted to continue working in health care as he transitioned to civilian life last summer. At first he considered a degree in nursing until he heard about the new public health program at Campbell University’s College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences.

Read more about his decision to attend Campbell, pursue a career in public health, and his experiences so far in the program’s inaugural class.

 

 

Why Campbell University?

It was kind of by luck. I did my undergraduate degree at Campbell’s extended campus on Fort Bragg. Over the summer, as I was transitioning from active duty to civilian life, I wanted to continue my education. I actually applied to a nursing school, and then I went on Campbell’s website and saw the new public health program so I decided to apply.
 

Why public health?

I have an interest in health but I really didn’t know too much about public health. I started reading about the profession, and thought it sounded really cool. I wanted to do something that would impact patients on a bigger scale. Public health impacts large populations and I feel like you can accomplish a lot that way.
 

What’s it like to be a part of the inaugural class at Campbell?

So far it’s been great. The experiences like Honduras have been amazing, but it has also been a lot of work. This year has definitely been a learning experience for the students and also for the faculty.
 

How has your military background shaped your experience in public health?

I think it prepared me for a lot of things, especially working with humanitarian aid. Going to a place like Honduras can be shocking to some people, but because of my past experiences, like my deployment to Iraq, it’s not that hard for me to get into their world and understand the difficulties they face.
 

Tell us about your trip to Honduras.

I traveled with the East Chapel Hill Rotary Club on their annual trip to Pimienta, Honduras, where they provide dental services and health education to children. My research interest is in rural farmworkers here in North Carolina. Honduras has the same type of people, rural farmworkers and I speak Spanish, so I was able to translate and help with research. And, because I’m a medic, I also helped in the medical aid station. So it was very rewarding.
 

What type of research?

We did a survey trying to find out where members of the community get their primary care and the type of barriers they face. I found some interesting things; about 50 percent of the people that we surveyed said this annual trip was their primary access to dental care. It was kind of striking to see the number of people who rely on the Rotary Club as their main source for dental care.
 

Is this research for an ongoing project or your thesis?

It’s for my thesis. As far as an ongoing project, I would love for future public health students to continue the research efforts in Honduras so we can look back and see that we’re actually doing improvements in the community.
 

What is your future career goal?

I have a lot of interest in non-profit work and humanitarian aid, but because of my military background, I also have a lot of interest in working for the government. I like both a lot and I’m not sure where I’m going yet.

Photo: Gerald Montero during a public health class at Campbell University’s College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences.