Jade Lopez most recently worked as a creative digital strategist with Youth + Tech + Health, a health and technology nonprofit located in Oakland, Calif. Currently, she is pursuing her graduate education in public health. She is an active member of the public health community and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior in 2011.
From Pre-Med to Public Health
Lopez came to UC Davis with the intention of becoming a doctor. She pursued a degree in Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior to hit all the marks for medical school.
“Studying at UC Davis was a unique opportunity for me,” said Lopez. “I was the first person in my family to go to college and I learned a lot during my time on campus. I had many different roles: a pre-med student, a lifeguard at Hickey Pool and a collegiate member of the Delta Gamma Sorority.”
After graduating, Lopez interned at the Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center in San Francisco on a team that performed mobile, non-clinical HIV/AIDS testing. This led to more volunteer work, and she eventually joined the Peace Corps as a secondary science volunteer. Lopez became aware of opportunities in public health and realized a different path than medical school better suited her career interests.
“While I am a huge proponent of clinical and curative care, my passions lie more within the realm of preventative and community healthcare,” she said. “I'm able to better incorporate my talents in art, visual design and health communications outside of the traditional medical industrial complex.”
Lopez worked in downtown Oakland, Calif., at a health and technology non-profit called YTH, Youth + Tech + Health. She served as a creative digital strategist where she handles communications, marketing and visual design for YTH. This non-profit focuses on developing technology for the health of youth.
In the fall, Lopez transitioned out of her job and returned to school to complete a master’s degree in public health at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Finding Identity and Balance
Many life lessons become clearer in hindsight, and Lopez wishes she would have been more involved with the LatinX group and the queer communities on campus during her time at UC Davis.
“It wasn't until more recently that I've embraced and explored my Puerto Rican heritage and my queer identity,” she said. “I've since learned it's valuable to have representation; without representation, how else can people see themselves as valuable members of society because of their identities? So a Caribbean presence in such a highly ‘Chicanx’ space (defined as a Chicano or Chicana of any gender) would have been great, and I could have done my part to erase bisexual invisibility within the LGBTQAI space.”
Recollecting fondly on her experiences at UC Davis, Lopez often comes back to visit campus. As a student, she received CAL and PELL Grants to help fund her education and would not have been able to complete her program without this financial support.
Lopez encourages current students to talk to advisors for career guidance and to find a healthy work-life balance to become a well-rounded individual and succeed in college and beyond.
“Try to make sure you're taking the time to invest in yourself to become a well-rounded individual,” she said. “I've had the privilege of working with many different types of highly intelligent and accomplished people, and the best work happens not with the teams with the highest IQ, but the highest EQ (emotional quotient, or emotional intelligence).”
Shaping a Brighter Future
Helping others has been a guiding principle for Lopez. Creating art and volunteering are outlets for her to stay balanced, and she is passionate about helping marginalized community members thrive. She participates with Latinas in STEM, the East Bay Meditation Center, and the Contra Costa Family Justice Center.
“The backbone of my purpose on this planet is to be of service to my community,” Lopez said. “So my personal and professional life is dedicated to creating a world where people can succeed, not in spite of, but because of the multiplicity of their identities.”
During her time in the Peace Corps, Lopez started Mozambique's first high school medical internship program, which received a United Nations Service Award nomination. After completing her service, she worked internationally with a world-renowned community development organization in India before returning to the United States.
“These organizations make me a better person, a better professional and are creating a world in which I want to thrive,” said Lopez.
Like many Californians, she enjoys Mexican food as often as possible. Lopez also likes science fiction, going on hikes and practicing yoga and meditation. For her, a healthy work-life balance is the key to success.
“We all know work-life balance is a challenge, especially during our academic years,” she said. “So if we can start to think about it now, and get practice implementing it, we'll be well on the way to making sure we're taking care of our emotional and mental health when the stakes are higher later in our professional careers.”