Join us as Tyra Parrish, MPH, explores Mariah's journey as a trailblazing public health professional and recent graduate of UC Berkeley's prestigious Master's of Public Health Program. Mariah shares how her passion for social change and her experience with research in reproductive health have impacted her work. Mariah and Tyra also share their insights on salary negotiation, navigating the space of public health as Black women, and creating space to exist as your authentic selves with the help of leaders who have come before.
Reimagining OEHS with Mariah Jiles, MPH (Part 1)
Reimagining OEHS with Mariah Jiles, MPH (Part 2)
Transcript for Do the Change Podcast: Reimagining OEHS with Mariah Jiles, MPH
Part 1 of Podcast with Mariah Jiles, MPH
Tyra: Hi everyone, welcome to the Do the Change podcast, where we're challenging reimagining OEHS. So this podcast focuses on highlighting upcoming leaders in their field and how they got to where they are today. With this special focus on the field of occupational environmental health but we also talk about other disciplines as well, not just that. Um so we're going to be talking about all the hills and valleys of these speaker's journey get some insight into nontraditional paths into the field. So my name is Tyra Parrish. I'm a recent graduate from the MPH program here at Berkeley, and our guest speaker is Mariah Jiles.
Tyra: I’m super excited to have you here. Um so I am going to just talk about Mariah, really quick. So Mariah is also a MPH graduate um from UC Berkeley, from UC Berkeley's Master of Public Health Program. So earning her master's, she worked alongside the Sexual Health and Reproductive Equity Program also known as SHARE under the Evaluation study of the Abundant Birth Project. And so drawing from this impactful study and her time in graduate school, Mariah cemented her resolve to support the health of pregnant people from minoritized communities with special attention to the black American community. As a graduate student, Mariah also conducted research into maternal health disparities between U.S. and foreign born, foreign born black birthing people in the U.S., highlighting her desire um and um the public health community's urgent need for more specificity in examining the health outcomes of different black American identities. And since then, she has traveled and presented the research findings at two conferences and this summer partnered with the Commonwealth Health Care Corporation, also known as the CHCC, an organization that provides the majority healthcare services to the residents in the Commonwealth of the Mariana Marianna.
Tyra: Mariana. Thank you. Islands. And they are currently working on a data analysis project examining family planning access on the island , Wow that sounds really cool . And this fall Mariah will be continuing on in a full time position as a Community Health Fellow with the American Public Health Association also known as the APHA and Kaiser Permanente. And in this role, she'll be working alongside the Tubman Center for Health and Freedom to open a community health center in Seattle. Oooh this is a hard word for me. Puget?
Mariah: I think, Puget
Tyra: Puget? Okay
Mariah: But it might be wrong. You know,
Tyra: it's all good. I'll just spell it out. It's P U G E T. If someone knows how to say that. Go ahead and correct me. Sound region that meets the unique needs of communities of color. So. Mariah has done a lot, obviously, as y’all can tell, she is well, her her resumé is is heavy. So. Yeah. Welcome to the podcast.
Mariah: Thank you so much, Tyra . I'm so happy to be here.
Tyra: Yeah, we are happy to have you. And so we're going to start with the well, just a quick check- in question. Just to set the tone. So the question for this episode is what is this song or musical artist that always puts you in a good mood?
Mariah: Oh, that's a great question. I feel like if I want to go like old school, I'd say like Earth, Wind and Fire, like
Mariah: stuff for fun
Mariah: but currently I'd have to say Lizzo. I love Lizzo. I feel like.
Tyra: Okay Yeah,
Mariah: positive music. So I definitely like put her on if I want to be like, up in a good mood.
Tyra: I like that. I feel like for me it is ,ooo if I went like so, like my just like my first love with music, I would say like, is Frank Ocean. Like Frank Ocean. make me go, Oh, like really love music. And I feel like now I listen to Burna Boy a lot more. But I still always go back to Frank Ocean sometimes . But…, yeah, okay. So we're just going to just hop right into the first question, which is walk us through how you got into public health and the field of maternal child health, because not only is really interesting, but it actually has some very interesting ties to Berkeley as well. So yeah, I would love to hear to walk through how to get here.
Mariah: Yeah. So I feel like it's been a long journey. I feel like. I well, I wish you might have been like one moment where it was like a epiphany. It really kind of happened over the course of my life.
Mariah: So growing up, I'm from the Chicagoland area, my dad's side of the family, all rooted in the south side of Chicago. So growing up, I did see one a lot of racial segregation within the city and outlying suburbs and also kind of. Disparities in health care not that but I knew that word growing up. We just had like disparate health outcomes, health care access, etc., growing up. So I knew that whatever work I did, I wanted to address the health of the African-American community because that's where I come from initially. So throughout high school, first few years of college, I thought it would be through medicine. So I was really pre-med student, wanted to be a doctor. I know that that's the way that I would address, like health care disparities. It wasn't until I became a global studies major that I learned about kind of like in a roundabout way, I learned about global health. First in my global studies major, then focus on public health domestically within the United States.
Mariah: And so as a global studies major, I had the ability to take any class I wanted basically kind of curating my own schedule, my own course load. And my sophomore year, I think it was I took a class called Race Politics and Reproduction, taught by Natalie Lira at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, shoutout to her. And it was in that class that I realized that harrowing history that Black women, Black birthing people have had in the U.S. regarding their reproductive health, birthing experiences, etc.. So that was a class that really opened up my eyes and also opened my eyes, not just to the history of birthing people Black birthing people in the U.S., but also the current reality hearing about Beyonce, Serena Williams, both of them almost losing their lives in childbirth. That really opened my eyes to this is not something that just occurred in the past, but it's still occurring til today. I mean, it's actually getting worse. The black…
Mariah: birthing experience here is getting getting worse in the U.S.. Yeah. So so yeah. So I feel like that was an experience but I really couldn’t .. after learning of this statistics, hearing about Beyonce, Serena Williams, I really didn't leave that unchanged.
Mariah: I became kind of a fan girl, Dr. Lira. So I took her one class one semester then the following semester. I took a class called Race Medicine in Society, and I wrote about racializing the black body. And also during that semester, I had the ability to join her research team and she was doing an NIH project looking at eugenics sterilization abuse in North Carolina. So pouring through historical records, hospital records from the 1920s, the 19, I think it was 1960…1962. Looking at state's eugenics board, sterilizing people without their explicit consent, a largely against their wants and their needs. And most of those people were black, were minoritized communities, and that was another project afterwards. I really could not become unchanged. I really it really cemented my resolve to be…to work in reproductive justice spaces.
So yeah, I feel like it was really those two experiences. Still at that time. I knew I was interested in maternal health. I didn't know public health. I didn't know that there was a MCAH major or concentration. But I remember, I was in the car with my mom like senior year, junior year. She was like, okay, Mariah. Like, it's time for you to start thinking about next steps. Like, what do you want to do? And I just kinda Googled maternal and child health in MPH. This concentration of maternal and child health concentrated. It popped up.
Tyra: Oh okay.
Mariah: So literally. This is a next clear step. Like, this is what I'm interested in. This is what I love and I feel passionate about doing
Mariah: that. This is what I want to do. So yeah, let's get here.
Tyra: Yeah, but it's like, but it's so just interesting. And how even though you say, like, there's kind of, like a roundabout way, it seemed to be like a very also like, clear path at the same time, which is super cool. And also I just want to highlight the reason why that, that I've mentioned that Mariah's kind of path is overlaps with Berkeley is because Berkeley has a very I don't want to say rich, but a very strong history with the eugenics movement and a lot of Berkeley has inspired a lot of problematic historical movements. I will say one of them being the eugenics movement, there is actually eugenics, I believe, lab and or center at Berkeley. So for anyone who wants to further explore that, it is a deep rabbit hole, but it's also present at Berkeley. But it's, it's very interesting how you're about how when you're talking about your kind of your journey to public health was about eugenics and you happen to go to university. That has a very interesting past with eugenics, but I think I also want to kind of further talk about your your journey of did you experience kind of any challenges along the way, figuring this out? And what lessons did you learn from those experiences or even currently now, or just finishing your MPH at Berkeley? Were there any obstacles that you were facing during that time?
Mariah: So I won't say like on the onset, applying to grad school, neither my parents went to graduate school. My sister did, my grandfather did. I didn't know that process, but my sister did. The year before, two years before, so I had her as a resource. Letters of recommendation. The whole like application for to let her whole process and so was relatively easy for me. But I will say it was difficult in coming to Cal, So I'm originally from the Chicagoland area.
Mariah: Out here for graduate school. And while Cal is like an amazing school is my dream school, I'm so happy to have been able to attend. There was a significant financial burden in coming and having to move across the country.
Tyra: Girl speak on it. Speak on it. How expensive is the Bay Area?
Mariah: Oh my gosh. I had no idea. I coming from like 800 dollar apartments in southern Illinois where I went to school. To hefty check for housing in the Bay area and it was very unexpected on top of grad school, which is already expensive. Yeah, I will say financially had to navigate a lot of different burdens, not just coming to California, but also within grad school.
Mariah: So finding summer employment that was a little stressful. Finding an internship.
Mariah: …and Post-grad. Getting everything in order was a little bit stressful. What else did I say? I'll also say another hardship or barrier. I don't know if I want to use that word I experienced. Coming to Cal was just diversity. I'll have to say. Like, while Cal is diverse in some instances or some aspects I feel like I really was missing a black community.
Mariah: So while. I don't know if it directly impacted like my education while I was at Cal. It did impact me socially and like, emotionally,
Mariah: sometimes I would find it to be emotionally taxing, being on campus, not really seeing too many people that look like me, um it was another barrier taking time to find community, to feel supportive on campus.
Tyra: Right. And I think with the the last point you made is very real and that sometimes just knowing that there are people that look like you on campus can give you that extra push to keep going. And when that isn't there, then it's like you can self motivate yourself, but that shouldn't be a burden that you kind of solely experience by yourself. And I will say that that effort, like sometimes you don’t even have the mental capacity to look for that support,
Tyra: you know, and so that's a whole nother thing. But I really appreciate you sharing that because that is something that I also experienced at Cal in regards to diversity, where you're right, it's diverse in some areas, but I feel like in the areas where it comes to like student support outside of courses, I'm like kind of I wish it was there more
Mariah: Yeah and it's because I feel like a lot of the material, especially because what I was really focused on Black health outcomes. I'm learning about my people, I'm hearing the stories of my people that are not seeing my people. You know what I mean?
Tyra: Like crazy. Yeah.
Mariah: Oh yeah. So that was definitely something to navigate when I came.
Tyra: Yeah. Um so I guess my question is, while, you were at Cal and for, I guess expanding your network outside of Cal. Were there any like mentors or folks that you leaned on in those moments? And also, like, were there any mentors along the way who kind of helped kind of push you in the direction of public health and or keep you in the direction of public health?
Tyra: I mean, for folks who maybe don't have that, how did you happen upon those people? Like was it organic or was it like, Oh, I was it like I took their class and you were like, oh, you're super dope, you're my mentor now. that's also a fair approach too. So
Mariah: yeah. Yeah, I will honestly say like something that's been constant across my entire academic journey is having at least one person, one faculty member
Mariah: That really is like a confidant, somebody I could trust in and go and really like sometimes seeing more for me professionally, academically, that I can see for myself.
Tyra: Mm hmm.
Mariah: So one person or two people that come to mind, even from undergrad, from University of Illinois, is Dr. Lira, where she worked in the Latinx department. And she showed me public health research and really sparked that interest for me in maternal health.
Mariah: And. Say, Dr. Charles Fogelman, who is still my mentor today, still reaching out to him
Tyra: We love, We love.
Mariah: Yeah. And he was a person. Who. When I was talking about like public health. Well, one he showed me what public health was? I didn't know what it was of the field.
Mariah: So when I was applying to schools, he was the one person who told me I need to shoot my my or aim higher in terms of the schools I was applying to. And had he not said that I would have never applied to Cal or never even came to Cal.
Tyra: That's the best
Mariah: Both of them are just incredible people who really like enabled me to come here. I'll say while I was here, Maternal and Child health. We have such an incredible faculty. So Dr. Cassandra Marshall literally day one have been talking about like my professional career, like what I want to do um just the way that my view on what I want to do has changed over grad school. She's been somebody I've always been able to come to and still come to
Mariah: …say, Dr. Ndola Prata, who I worked with on this research project. My capstone project has been incredible. Dr. Harley has been incredible. Literally could not have done this project without her. Who else would I have to say, there are so many people. Even people who they may not be my mentor, but I just see them like are they teaching a class or like hear about their research from afar. They have been they've guided me as well. But those are the people that come front of mind.
Tyra: I love that. And shout out to that person who told you to aim higher cause that's sometimes all you need. you just need someone to say like, No, you can actually do more and then you realize you can do more. But that's why you need like folks around you who can see something you can't see for yourself. Now Mariah you’re good like apply. And then you’re hired or now you graduated from that said university. So that's yeah, that's really dope to hear getting emotional. Let me not but like that's sometimes just all you need.
Mariah: Yeah. And even say professional like those are people who have helped me so much academically. But even my professional experiences at Cal. Dr. Ortega, Dr. Anu Gomez
Mariah: there’s so many people who worked alongside who while, I still feel like a student. I still feel like a novice at whatever. They really encourage me to like, apply myself and really just expand my view of what I can do, what's possible.
Tyra: Love, we love! Okay, so I'm going to do a topic shift. So now we're going to more so talk about your research and thesis project, which you just mentioned a little bit earlier. So it was on maternal health disparities between U.S. and foreign born black birthing people in the U.S. So can you talk more about that? How did you happen upon that project? And then also if you can talk about in regards to you like presenting, I know it I'm trying not to spill the secret as to why her project is so dope.
Tyra: Like, like wrap around just so you could please tell us why what you did for your thesis project is just humongous for the field of maternal child health. Also understanding black birthing experiences. So please, please spill, spill. Why is it so great?
Mariah: Okay, so basically, I feel like similar to like, public health, like me thinking about pursuing an MPH, this research question is something that I've been like pondering for a while. Not so much like an explicit research question. Is X, Y, and Z related to X, Y, and Z, but just kind of like differences. I notice. So in Dr. Lira's class in an undergrad, we actually viewed this film or this documentary called Unnatural Causes.
It was based in Illinois with two doctors, two pediatricians in Illinois who looked at differences between or looked overall just at black infant health outcomes. And they looked at specifically foreign born and U.S. born black people. And they hypothesized that if there is some black gene that makes black babies, which is like a theory at the time, black babies more susceptible or more likely to die in childbirth because they're black. Then babies who are African born having more of the black DNA or whatever it is have higher rates of…of having a baby of low birth weight. So that's what they're they were looking at. And I hypothesize that because US born black people have a higher genetic mixture with like U.S. of of whiteness or what's the word tryna to think of the word or have a more diverse and more mixed genetic admixture
Tyra: Oh gotcha. Yeah.
Mariah: As we actually found in the study, the opposite. They compared U.S. born Black women, US born white women and U.S. or African born black people. And they found that African born black babies had birth rates that were equal. Around equal to U.S. born black baby or U.S. born white babies. And foreign black babies had lower birth weights. But after one generation of being in the United States, the African born parents gave birth to babies that had equal birth rates of U.S. born Black people. So there's something about giving birth. They hypothesize giving birth in the U.S. it is harmful to the Black birthing body.
So that's a question that I really was pondering with. And I was really interested in this, just further analyzing differences in black identities and how that could impact birth outcomes. A lot of times in research, we only are labeled as like a black monolith kind of over overshadowing or overlooking differences between Caribbean black people, African born black people, African born, being a huge group, a little more literal continent.
Tyra: Right. That's a whole nother umbrella term. Yeah,
Mariah: um, people are going to South America, etc. So all these different black identities for this research project, I was really passionate about exploring that more so for our project, we looked at differences in maternal morbidities between U.S. and foreign born black birthing people. So this was nationally representative data, meaning that it is a literal collection of all the births in the U.S. in 2021and should I say what the findings. Is is that like.
Tyra: Sorry, what?
Mariah: Could I say like the findings or like?
Tyra: Yeah, yeah, girl this is your paper. You better tell us why the findings are the most important part. And also before you go into it, can you also define what morbidity is for folks who may not know the difference between morbidity and mortality?
Mariah: Yeah, Yeah, that's actually perfect. Thank you. So mortality is somebody or a pregnancy related death. So from pregnancy related causes complications and morbidity is commonly referred to as a near miss. So it can be a severe illness or a consequence from birth that can really impact the person's life. It's either be severe or it could be less severe, but it's commonly referred to as a near miss. They almost lost their life, but they're still alive. But they're still kind of dealing with the complications from birth.
Mariah: Yeah. So for the study, we utilized natality data from the CDC or the National Center of Health Statistics looking at 2021 births in the U.S. For our population, it was only black only. So nobody who identified as black or any other race, just black births. And we found that U.S. foreign black people, while in the same study population, they had high rates of having a baby of low birth weight, having a baby that's preterm. They were less likely to have a maternal morbidity compared to foreign born black people. So foreign born black people in our city were nearly, I think it was a nearly 50% more likely to experience or had 50% increase. Odds of experiencing morbidity compared to U.S. born black people. So kind of the opposite of what the literature is showing us. So literature currently, which there's not much on the differences between U.S. born and foreign born maternal health outcomes. It kind of points to US born black people having worse Maternal health outcomes in foreign born. But our studies pointing to the opposite that the opposite in terms of maternal morbidity.
Tyra: Mm hmm.
Mariah: Yeah. So very interesting findings. We're still, you know, running our analysis, additional now regions to birth country, birth region and how that may impact the outcomes.
Mariah: yeah those are our preliminary findings.
Tyra: Girl I'm so I'm just as as this one as a friend but then also just like from even if I took out the label of friend just like hearing this it's just so it's just it's it's always very exciting to actively watch someone change a field or actively kind of like, call out or challenge one of the most. I maybe it's a stretch, but like commonly understood kind of thought or idea that's been accepted for a while in your research is going like, well, maybe we need to think about this a little bit more and that's really dope. And so
Tyra: Hi guys, this is Tyra Parrish. Your host for this episode and we have reached the end of part one of this conversation with this amazing speaker. Don't click out yet because part two to this conversation has already been posted. So go ahead and click over to the next page. And don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel and Spotify page.
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Part 2 of Podcast with Mariah Jiles, MPH Transcript :
Tyra: Hey y’all welcome to part two of our conversation with our amazing speaker on the Do the change podcast. We're going to hop right back into the conversation. Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel, Spotify page and follow us on Instagram @dothechangepodcast.
Yeah, I'm excited to see more. I'm excited to hear about more presentations, research presentations. So that's just awesome and now I'm going to shift to where you're working right now, which is with the Commonwealth Health Care Corporation. Can you one talk more about this? It's my first time hearing about it. And also, how did you even come across the opportunity?
Mariah: Yeah. So the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation is based in the CNMI. so Commonwealth and Northern Mariana Islands, it's a U.S. territory. So people who are born, there are U.S. citizens, but it's in the Pacific, south of Japan and north of Papua New Guinea and Commonwealth Health Care Corporation is a health care corporation or a health care company that provides the majority of the health care to people who live on the island. And there's about 42,000 if I’m correct people who live on the island.
Mariah: So for this project, I'm working on a data analysis project where we look at results from a I think it's a 2021 CNMI hybrid study and looking at access to family planning on the island. So whether people are able to access the family planning measures that they want or the the types of family planning that they want and the rate at which it's used.
Tyra: Gotcha okay. That's really, it's just it's just super niche. It's just super cool.
Mariah: And I feel like. It's so interesting. Sorry to interrupt
Tyra: No, go ahead girl.
Mariah: but I feel like an undergrad, like being in global health. I thought, like coming into Berkeley, I really want to focus on domestic health, which I do. But it's interesting being able to use what I learned in grad school focused on domestic health to a kind of. It's a U.S. territory, but it's also like outside of the U.S. So
Mariah: like a domestic while still being kind of global…global lens. It's it's been great so far.
Tyra: Yeah. And I think that the fact that you first experienced public health through a global lens from like your undergrad and then kind of going into domestic, I feel that sometimes just and I can speak for my experience of going the other direction is harder because you're so conditioned or trained in a domestic lens that when you even start thinking about global, you really have to like practice that skill of removing a lot of different one privileges. We have just being a U.S. born citizen and also just being in the U.S. and just what comes with that when you're trying to think about global health outside the U.S.. So yeah, I'm excited to really like hear more about that because that's just this super niche, I guess. But it's also really cool. And I'm sure that folks who just live on islands experience health in just a totally different way.
And so with that, I also do want to shift to talking more about like salary and like networking and things of that nature. So I guess my question is, can you share any personal experiences or stories about one like navigating salary discussions and then also just how you found these opportunities or any resources that you have or any way you went about locating yeah like job opportunities and things like that?
Mariah: Yeah, I will say that net not networking…negotiation salary negotiation is something I've learned in graduate school. I feel like that's not something I did previously. That's probably bad. I should have done it
Tyra: Girl it’s all good.
Mariah: But it's something like in my program we really were taught, especially in our public leadership classes, about salary negotiation. That was really a discussion between you and the hiring manager.
Mariah: So I'll say in terms of negotiation for post-grad specifically, so I feel like my positions that I held during graduate school. Those for the most part were kind of set stipends. So there is not really much negotiation.
Mariah: Of my positions, however, was one that I was super excited about, so it was very aligned with what I wanted to do. And also that was the first time negotiating. So that was a position where like they gave me like a hourly wage and since I've done previous work similar to job responsibilities, it was kind of like a leveraging point that I could use,
Mariah: So if there's any tips I can give in that kind of scenario, it would be kind of holding off your excitement like, Great, that you got the job, everything. But for me, I feel like I used to jump the gun and just immediately accept the job before even talking about like whether there is a range of what they'd accept or what they're able to provide.
Mariah: um in terms of post-grad, I would say I went about negotiation a little bit differently.
Mariah: So I think it's been a trend. I'm not sure if it's at other states. I know California jobs are really good with posting the salary range.
Mariah: and for me post grad this degree was very expensive. Not gonna lie. So I did have a certain number or like range in mine of what I would accept for a job. So if a job was, let's say like, like, I don't know $60,000 less or i dont know that's kind of like a large number. But significantly less than I’d accept in a job, I just wouldn't even apply.
Mariah: I selected jobs that were within the range that I wanted or could be negotiated a little bit higher.
Mariah: Um yeah. Yeah. I feel like that's been beneficial. I feel like it just saves yourself a lot of work in the long run. Instead of taking jobs that is way below what you want and trying to get them up up up. It’s better for me at least in my personal opinion. Just starting with jobs, you are already within the range of what I want. And the calmer, well, a lot easier you're able to kind of negotiate there.
Tyra: You know what? I'm really glad you said those two things because that transitions very well into this next segment. This is new, but it's called Tea Time with Tyra. And I feel like everything that you just shared is everything that you just shared is facts just straight up facts. But I think also when you add the layer of being a person of color or being a black woman, it just takes it to a whole nother level.
And so I just want to uplift and highlight how negotiating salary is hard and it's uncomfortable, but it's another level of uncomfortability. When you're a person of color and you're a black woman and you're trying to get paid the amount you should get paid. And so if you're comfortable, do you mind just like talking about maybe if you had any feelings of that, of just of even like combating that feeling of like, okay, like I should be grateful I got this opportunity, but then also like, no, like I've got my degrees, I know what I'm doing. I'm coming in actually overqualified and you need to pay me as such
Mariah: Yeah, Yeah. You know, I feel like. Yes to all that you said. Having that added layer one being a woman. Two being Black.
Mariah: It complicated in negotiation. I feel like because of, like, stereotypes of perceptions of black women maybe being aggressive, being perceived a certain way. But we get into like salary and negotiations that can be difficult. I feel like for me my positions so far that I've worked in and will be working in in the future have been either led by a Black women. So that's made me a lot more comfortable or specifically focus on the black community. So like community Health has really wanted to help minoritized communities,
Mariah: I feel like that's giving me one when I'm negotiating with black women. That makes me feel a lot more comfortable,
Tyra: Right. Because they know. Yeah. Yeah.
Mariah: You know, And I feel like that's something like I don't have to, like, navigate.
Mariah: But also working. And I probably will hopefully for the rest of my career work in issues or work for organizations that focus on community health outcomes.
Mariah: I feel like if you're investing in and trying to genuinely help and improve the health outcomes of community, you're going to be willing to pay people what they’re worth
Mariah: You know, I feel.
Tyra: that's tea.
Mariah: Yeah, you know what?
Mariah: So I feel like in that lens, I'm really not uncomfortable in negotiating. If you say you want to help black people, you say you want to help minoritized communities then the pay the people you're working with with their worth, you know. So, yeah,
Tyra: I mean hey, you said it. It's really that's it's really that simple, but it's made complicated that's all I’ll say
Tyra: And so I want to kind of further talk about that a little bit more, but kind of, I guess, out of the scope of negotiations. But just one, just being a black woman who has a just a wide variety of identities that intersect. Can you also talk about what your experience is like, just been being in the field of public health kind of through those different lenses and like how did you either navigate it or in spaces where you had to kind of had to advocate or create space? How did you kind of go about that?
Mariah: Yeah. I feel like this is another area where I'm grateful to be in the maternal health space. I feel like there are so many black women, black people in general who really been trailblazers in maternal health spaces. So basically following in their footsteps and filling up space that they've created. For me, there's so many important organizations Sister Song, Black Mamas Matter Alliance and so many these. You know what I mean? So I feel like that made me feel comfortable taking up the space. They show me how to do that in maternal health.
Mariah: I will say. For this summer. So working with the Commonwealth Health Care Corporation, that's part of a larger internship with American Association Of Maternal and Child Health Programs. It's like their summer graduate school hepatology program.
Mariah: I will say. Navigating epidemiology spaces has been interesting. That's a place where coming from maternal health going to epidemiology. I really dont.
Tyra: Woo girl
Mariah: Black people. Black women.
Mariah: mhmm but I'll say that there's always one like there's always at least one person I'm able to see able to connect with. And if not knowing that my voice matters just as much as everybody else's. And not only the voice, but the issues that I'm speaking about. So we're pertaining the Black birthing people, Black populations. That voice is needed. There's a reason why I'm sitting in certain seats. Thers’s is a reason why I'm in certain conferences or events. It's not just for me to be there to show face is really for me to advocate or advocate alongside people in my community taking myself out of the equation, like speak on what needs to be said. Like regardless of how people feel about me personally.
Tyra: I see that that is a life key where its like it needs to be said and I don't like how you feel about me. Doesn't really necessarily impact of like the truth is the truth or like this needs to be said and kind of seeing it more so it's like my purpose in this space is to say this.
Tyra: And, and I also just want to loop back to what you said about the transition from just the MCAH department to epi. It's hard, it's wild and it's always interesting because just epi, just epi in general epi with minoritized communities, that's a really negative relationship, just of how they have taken advantage of folks. So it's very it always makes my head tilt when I'm like, why aren't there more people of color in this space? Because in order to do restorative work in that field, you should probably like involve the communities that were taking advantage of.
First, for the sake of study, for the sake of science, for the sake of understanding diseases, syphilis, the easiest one comes to mind doing that type of testing as well. So yeah, okay, one more question and then I promise we’re gonna loop back to a more positive note, but I mean, not all tea time is negative, but this is just real
Mariah: Yeah I got my tea right here
Tyra: Oh, girl I love you. I love you. Can think of. So the last question, I guess, for this segment is how do you see your field kind of failing those identities, as you talked about, how like the lack of diversity, but also how do you recommend them then going about kind of fixing those wrongs?
Mariah: Oh, I feel like. I feel like something comes to mind as my work with the SHARE program. So the SHARE program, the evaluation of the abundant, the evaluation study of the Abundant Birth Project, and also the Abundant Birth Project. I feel my first time really seeing participatory research in action and how.
Mariah: Good public health and action, working alongside community members. Truly. I feel like it could be anything from including community members when developing the research question or the research or the public health intervention. Having them have a seat at the table, paid to sit at the table where they're compensated for their time. OOF!
Tyra: Girl tell us about the abundant birth project. Real quick, because I love them.
Mariah: Yeah incredible, incredible organization. So they're an organization. It's a first pregnancy supplement program in the entire country. And it started in San Francisco, and it gives in San Francisco. It provided went out..no compensation to pregnant people. So Black, Pacific Islander pregnant people in the city and it's since spread to many counties throughout California.
Mariah: um yeah it's led by expecting justice which is an organization in San Francisco.
Mariah: Yeah I'm just like fangirl like a big fan.
Tyra: I'm a big fan too. I was like. Yeah. You know, they're awesome. Yeah.
Mariah: And I feel like it really just showed me my time. Like working alongside community that actually is not hard to do participatory research to include diverse voices at the table, and it actually makes your intervention all that more effective. And all the more are a lot more beneficial to people who need. It, right?
Mariah: And also, yeah. I'm not sure if that answer your original question.
Tyra: You know that I mean that that did answer it and also just got me thinking as well like when when people say or when people are thinking about like what is reparations look like, reparations does look like money should be paying people for their time. But it also go really go beyond that as particularly like in our field, particularly in epi, MCAH and just public health and science in general, like titles, quote unquote titles matter, right?
So hiring a community member and giving a title as community researcher or researcher so that when they're applying to jobs, they can put Oh, I did research with UC Berkeley or UCSF or whatever, and that is also a way to provide reparations. But if they don't, if that's not the reparations they want, then they're more than welcome back. Actually, I don't want I don't want to be a researcher. I actually just want reparations in the form of money and you still have to honor that because you can't tell someone how they should get reparations. But I think that we also can rethink what reparations looks like or what does different things look like from the lens of community members. And I think the Abundant Birth Project and Expecting Justice and all these different the SHARE organization, all these different organizations really like reimagine the ways in which you can work with community and not the traditional like cookie cutter, this is how we work with community. You do a little better, do better. So sadly, we're coming to the end of this conversation. And so first I want to say I want to thank for being open and honest with me and the folks who are going to be listening to this.
But we're still hand in a positive note. So I want to end with questions about self-care and any closing thoughts or advice you have for some upcoming changemakers? I know, you know, I was I was so excited. Y’all I was so excited to talk to Mariah about self-care, cause she is the self-care queen. And this is a side note. I'm a I'm a plug Mariah. Mariah is also a yoga instructor, a pre prenatal yoga instructor. All right. Yeah. So she is the self-care queen. I'm excited to hear about her advice. So first question is, what advice would you give to young professionals or aspiring leaders regarding the importance of self-care and how can they incorporate self-care practices into their life while doing their goals and ambition?
Mariah: Ooh, Ooh. This is a great question Tyra.
Tyra: just for you. You! I want you to answer this.
Mariah: You know, I feel like. I kinda learned through a process like trial by fire. I feel like grad school,
Tyra: Not fire.
Mariah: literally trial by fire, like the crucible. I feel like my grad school time, because I feel like I was so passionate literally about my field. I love maternal health. I love black maternal health. Like learning about it. So I felt like I wanted to dip my hand in so many different pots. There was a time that. For myself not to read myself, but this past year, where I may or may not have been working like six jobs at once like.
This, all things I was genuinely interested in, but just burning the candle at both ends. I had no capacity to do good work. It felt like really anything, or at least in my perception. So I'll say I learned by experience what my capacity is. I feel like sometimes we need to learn like what not to do, to know what to do. I will say I think like slow and steady really wins the race. Like at least for me and how I view maternal health work, public health work. I really see it as like a lifelong career, something I always want to work in, at least for now. So I know like there is time, life is long, there is time.
You know, being able to sit with certain experiences to be fully present. And one thing without having a million things on your to do list makes you not only more effective, but also can open your eyes to it. To what to do in the future can make you more creative. I'll say also surrounding myself with people with managers, supervisors who feel the same way as me. So people remember, Hey, it's okay to take time off. It's okay to take holidays for people who have the same work life balance desires that I have. What else can I say. I also say I realize specifically for public health and the work that I do, it doesn't make sense for me to advocate for Black women, Black birthing people, Black people in general, their health outcomes while hurting my own health in the process like that just doesn't work, you know? So I feel like I really have to practice what I preach.
Mariah: So yeah, there are so many resources that I follow. Like on my Instagram feed, there's this one page called the NAP Ministry that talks about like the benefit, the spiritual or political resistance. That is the power of resting so we just really surround myself with voices, with people, with friends, to remind me that it is necessary to rest. That I don't have to earn my own rest, I don't have to earn relaxation, I don't have to earn rejuvenation. Yeah, it's been a work in progress and it's still still going.
Tyra: ah...I you. I don't even know what, what, what key to focus on. You gave so many and I think it's just I feel like the big thing that struck me was two things. It was when you said that it doesn't make sense to advocate for like black women's bodies and kind of also neglect your own. That's hit hard. Okay, wait a minute.
Let me do so. I need to after this, Imma do some reflections. But I also think that the main thing, which is you don't have to earn your rest, you don't have to earn rejuvenation. And I think that I will give that our generation is more pushing towards that where it's like, no, we need to rest. And being able to rest is having that privilege to be able to say, I'm going to rest is reflective of all the work that our previous ancestors have done to get us to this point, but also just cross the board with communities of color, of like we don't have to work ourselves, like into the ground, like we can rest and resting like the the work we still need to be done. But you can go ahead and sit for 30 minutes and that's okay. But yeah, okay. Last question. I’m so sad this has to end cause this self-care thing, I should have made it all self-care. You had so many gems. So last question is what are the daily or weekly self-care routines or habits that you have incorporated into your life?
Mariah: I love this. Tyra. I love these two questions. OMG Ooh, ooh. I say, never compromise on sleep if you know, you know, I don't compromise on sleep. You’re laughing cause you know
Tyra: it's very true
Mariah: I feel like even throughout grad school like at a certain time I just need to sleep, like I need my breaks. I will be ineffective if I don't get my 8 hours. And that's the thing I'm very protective over is my sleep. Yeah. I'll also say community. I feel like something a lot of times and conversations around self-care of course like spa face masks, all of that. But also sometimes you can overlook the power of community being around like minded people your people.
Mariah: Pretty making plan times with friends. Like I'm always a person like, Hey, let's do this, let's do that. Like, I really look forward to spending time with friends, family. That's another form of self-care, making sure I'm always able to see them, call them whenever I, I need them, or I'm going through something always right there.
Mariah: I'll say, What else? Just hobbies in general. Like I love like hiking, being out in nature, back in there, crocheting. That's a form of self care for me. And just like allowing like my inner child, just to explore. Like if I want to go, what did I do? I take like a painting class or like travel somewhere and just making time for things that bring me joy. As much time as I schedule for like work and whatever school And probably, like balance it out.
Tyra: Yeah, well, I mean, I'm so sad to say goodbye, but thank you so much for Mariah for coming and speaking on this podcast. Giving your wisdom and your insight and also talking about some of the work you're doing, also dropping some gems by other organizations for folks who want to do some a little research and find these organizations. They're great. But yeah, thank you all for listening to the Do the Change Podcast. I will see y’all soon!
Mariah: Thank you.
About Mariah Jiles, MPH:
Mariah Jiles, MPH is a public health professional and recent graduate of UC Berkeley's Master's of Public Health Program. While earning her Master's, she worked alongside the Sexual Health and Reproductive Equity (SHARE) program on their Evaluation Study of the Abundant Birth Project. The Abundant Birth Project is the first pregnancy income supplement program that provides unconditional cash supplements to Black and Pacific Islander pregnant people in California. During her time on this project, Mariah held 50+ hour-long conversations with birthing people in the Bay Area, having discussions ranging from their health and wellbeing, stress and anxiety to experiences of racism and discrimination. Drawing from this impactful Study and her time in graduate school, Mariah cemented her resolve to support the health of pregnant people from minoritized communities with special attention to the Black American community.
As a graduate student, Mariah also conducted research into maternal health disparities between U.S. and foreign-born Black birthing people in the United States, highlighting her desire and the public health community's urgent need for more specificity in examining the health outcomes of different Black American identities. She has since travelled and presented the research findings at two conferences.
This fall, Mariah will be continuing on in full-time role as a Community Health Fellow with the American Public Health Association (APHA) and Kaiser Permanente. In this role, she will be working alongside the Tubman Center for Health and Freedom to open a community health center in Seattle's Puget Sound region that meets the unique needs of communities of color (tubmanhealth.org).
About This Week's Host:
Tyra Parrish, MPH, is a graduate of UC Berkeley's School of Public Health with a concentration in Global Health and Environment and a speciality in Multicultural Health.
Tyra is an advocate for mentorship, lifting others up and helping someone avoid the obstacles that she faced going into the field. Tyra wants to make these conversations as casual and fun as possible and she is excited for you all to listen to her talk with amazing people some of which are close friends, people she met along the way, friends of friends, etc.