Daline Derival, M.P.H., completed UVM’s Post-Baccalaureate Premedical program in 2014. She is Program Evaluator and Public Health Core Faculty member for the VT-LEND program, whichprovides graduate-level interdisciplinary training, services, and care to improve the health of infants, children, and adolescents with disabilities.
We asked her to talk to us about her background, experience, and investment in public health.
Can you tell us about your inspiration to pursue public health career?
I was born in Haiti during the Jean-Claude Duvalier (“Baby Doc”) regime, moved to the U.S. at age six, and grew up in Queens, New York. When I saw a PBS program on Doctors Without Borders (MSF), I decided that was the kind of work I wanted to do. After graduating from Queens College, City University of New York, I moved to Atlanta to attend Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, where I earned my Master’s degree in Public Health in 2005.
I then worked for a public health consulting firm as a Statistical Program and Research Analyst for a CDC contract, before being promoted to Associate Project Manager. A 10-day service trip to Rwanda in 2006 reignited my passion for global health, and when I got back, I applied to the Peace Corps, where I served in Madagascar as a Health Extension Worker for 18 months, until civil unrest led to evacuation. I loved the work and wasn’t ready to return to the states, so I requested a transfer for the remaining nine months of my service. I was transferred to Mali, West Africa, and served there for 18 months.
After returning from the Peace Corps, I worked on the Polio Eradication Initiative and Global Health System Strengthening as a CDC contractor.
You worked as an epidemiologist in the Atlanta area. What brought you to Vermont, and what are you currently studying?
I moved to Vermont in 2014 to complete my prerequisites for nursing through UVM’s Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medical program before applying to the Direct Entry Program in Nursing (DEPN). I completed my prerequisites in December, and I’m now taking a graduate seminar, Interdisciplinary Seminar in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities, through the Vermont Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program, where I am a hybrid fellow and faculty member.
I’d applied for a position with the VT-LEND program over the summer and was presented with the opportunity to work as Program Evaluator/Public Health faculty, while also taking the two seminars offered by the program. This has been an amazing experience for me!
My job involves conducting project evaluation to assure quality control and continued growth and development, in keeping with current best practices. I’m also responsible for public health consultation regarding training, service, technical assistance, and research issues with VT-LEND collaborating programs of the University, and MCH programs at the local, state, regional, and national levels.
What new knowledge or expertise has the VT-LEND program given you?
Prior to joining VT-LEND, I had no experience or knowledge of neurodevelopmental disabilities. Through LEND, I’m not only learning about the neurodevelopmental disabilities and how they affect people throughout their lifespan, but also about healthcare leadership principles, cultural and linguistic competence, and family-centered care. I’ve learned that disability is when the environment doesn’t support a person’s abilities, so our goals as health practitioners should focus on facilitating maximal function for people with disabilities. I’m also experiencing what being a culturally and linguistically competent health professional looks like.
What training does VT-LEND provide?
VT-LEND trains professionals working in medicine, education, speech-language pathology, social work, psychology, and public health (to name a few), on supporting people living with disabilities, as well as their families. This isn’t just based on didactic learning; rather, fellows and trainees have a chance to go out into the community through internships and family visits to practice what is learned in class. We also do interdisciplinary consultations, where any person or organization in the community can present a particularly perplexing problem to LEND faculty and get recommendations based on our diverse perspectives.
Can you tell us about your recent trip to Uganda and how you heard about this opportunity?
During my first months in UVM’s Post Baccalaureate Pre-Medical program, Continuing and Distance Education Assistant Dean Beth Taylor-Nolan mentioned to me that a faculty member at the College of Nursing and Health Sciences had a background and interests similar to mine. I contacted Dr. Sarah Abrams and scheduled an appointment. During our meeting, I learned that Dr. Abrams is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) like me, and she’s interested in global health. Dr. Abrams asked me if I was interested in being a teaching assistant for the Community/Public Health Nursing course (PRNU 241), which takes place during the winter session in Uganda. Of course I was interested!
In January, I spent three weeks in the Kamuli District of Uganda, working with 10 senior-level undergraduate nursing students conducting community projects to promote public health and working in the district hospital. The community outreach—where nurses vaccinated children and women of childbearing age, while I assisted in handing out de-worming pills and vitamin A—reminded me of my days as a Peace Corps volunteer in Madagascar. But I also learned a great deal. It was a great experience all around.
Any last thoughts on your experience?
I came to Vermont for the school, but the experience I’ve had over the past few months has been more enriching than I could have imagined.
Mariette Landry is an editor for UVM Continuing and Distance Education.