NCHEC is extremely proud of the many health CHES® and MCHES® who serve as essential personnel in many different sectors across the US. Health Education Specialists have assumed critical roles in the identification, control, and assurance of the needs of individuals and communities. They advocate fiercely for public protection measures, and support many other critical health education and health behavior measures. As our nation continues to move forward in addressing and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of a competent certified health education workforce is as significant and essential as ever before.
The following interview is part of a new series to highlight the remarkable work efforts of our credential-holders
Name: Marica Zorrilla, DrPH, MPH, MCHES®
Job Title: Public Health Specialist/ Director of Positive Youth Development
Years Experience: 27
Career Sector: College Health & Academia
NCHEC: What is your current job title and where do you work?
Marcia: My job title is Public Health Specialist and Director of Positive Youth Development at the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Stanford School of Medicine in California. My work focuses on school-based tobacco and cannabis prevention education and research (Stanford Tobacco Prevention Toolkit; Stanford Cannabis Awareness & Prevention Toolkit).
NCHEC: What are your job duties as a Director of Positive Youth Development?
Marcia: I work on curriculum development including Healthy Futures, an alternatives to suspension curriculum for youth caught vaping e-cigs on campus. Additionally, I established the lab's Youth Action Board (YAB) who are youth ages 13 to 23. They are involved in peer-to-peer education, advising on curriculum content, and have an Instagram account to engage with other youth on tobacco and cannabis prevention.
NCHEC: How has your role changed as a result of COVID-19?
Marcia: I have been working remotely since March 2020. The greatest changes had to do with conducting trainings for the Stanford Tobacco and Cannabis Prevention toolkits, from in-person to remote. All our meetings including with the YAB were remote. We developed several remote webinars for youth and parents.
The Youth Action Board developed a webinar in April during earth week that focused on the environmental impacts of vape trash. This flyer was designed by the YAB.
We converted several of our curriculum to an on-line format. I learned how to do trainings online, learned how to develop on-line curriculum, and how to maintain and sustain a practically new YAB via zoom.
NCHEC: Give an example of how your organization is providing health education & support to students/youth?
Marcia: Our lab published a paper on the relationship between vaping and COVID-19 among youth. While I was not directly involved in the research and publication of that paper, we used it to improve our curriculum as well as our trainings and encouraged youth to quit vaping both cannabis and tobacco products.
NCHEC: Have you experienced increased recognition of the role of the health education specialist since the onset of COVID-19?
Marcia: Yes! I think there was a recognition of the need for public health professionals skilled in communicating and disseminating information on COVID-19, especially dispelling the myths surrounding COVID-19.
NCHEC: What advice do you have for newly certified health education specialists ready to enter the current work force?
Marcia: My advice is to be open-minded and to be flexible to changing environments. I would also say to try to stay positive. While there is a lot of uncertainty and suffering during a pandemic, we as Certified Health Education Specialists can and do make a difference in making the public's health better.