Student Spotlight

Nahima Hoque

Nahima Hoque

Hometown: Queens, New York

Degree Program: DrPH, Community Health concentration

Class Year: 2015 (Projected graduation date: 2022)

Undergraduate Major: BS Life Sciences

Graduate Degree(s) Received: MPH (Health Policy concentration) from SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

Professional Interests: Foreign language study

Extracurricular Activities/Involvement: Volunteering with agencies that support refugees

Click here for Nahima Hoque's LinkedIn profile


1. What drew you to the DrPH program at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University? Why did you choose to study public health? 

My experience in the MPH program gave me a greater appreciation for public health and although I did not originally plan to pursue a DrPH, a conversation with my former professors, Drs. John and Judith LaRosa motivated me to apply to the DrPH program.

I felt public health was the right career field for me as it brought together all of my varied interests along with my curiosity for international development. I appreciated that as a public health professional, we can be useful to solving various challenges and are not limited in our areas of work.


2. What is your favorite aspect of the program and what have your gained from it? 

Learning from peers who were at different stages in their careers enhanced the DrPH program experience for me. It’s great that the program attracts diverse students that bring unique perspectives. Having been a student during my early career allowed me to learn a great deal from others who had already been working in the health care sector for many years.


3. Could you describe your career path and experience?  

While an MPH student at Downstate, I interned with the United Nations (UN). The UN was my first exposure to international development and sparked my interest in humanitarian issues and the health challenges that are consequences of conflicts. After completing my MPH, I enrolled into the DrPH program. While completing coursework I worked for a non-profit youth development agency in Queens for a few years. I was unsure of how I wanted to navigate my career at that point, so I took a year to serve as an AmeriCorps member with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

It was during my AmeriCorps service that I discovered the Public Health Officer position in the United States Air Force. I knew that it was going to be a completely different life experience and I was ready for a change. I had never considered serving in the military prior to learning about that role. Fortunately, I had a great recruiter who provided information about the military, the position, and life as an active duty member. Around that same time, I also applied to the Boren Fellowship to study Arabic. I accepted the fellowship and spent a year in Jordan learning the language and the culture. Once I returned to the US, I got back in touch with my recruiter and informed him that I was still interested. We put together an application for the Air Force and I was notified of my selection a few months later. I commissioned into the Air Force in August 2020 and completed eight weeks of Officer Training School (OTS) and have since been serving in my current role as a Public Health Officer.


4. Please tell us your current profession. What is the most rewarding and most challenging aspect of your position?

Nahima HoqueAs a Public Health Officer in the United States Air Force I support a team of military personnel, civilians, and contractors to protect the health of our Airmen and their dependents. The public health unit on base has the responsibility of being the health department for the entire base population including active duty members, reservists, dependents, and civilians. The most rewarding aspect of this position is knowing our work directly impacts the greater Air Force mission. We ensure that Airmen are fit to fly, medically cleared to deploy to assignment locations, and have what they need to fulfill those missions. In addition, we conduct food safety inspections, facility inspections, vector borne disease surveillance, deployment readiness, occupational health, and the list goes on!

As for challenges, I certainly feel challenged in my role in a meaningful way each day. It’s unlike anything I’ve done before. As we are currently dealing with COVID, the tricky part for public health overall right now is changing human behavior.

Nahima Hoque 

5. Do you have any advice for someone who might be interested in Downstate’s DrPH program?  

I would encourage anyone who is interested in any DrPH program to consider Downstate’s program, especially working professionals. The evening class schedule, affordable tuition, and very knowledgeable professors made it an easy decision for me to study here. I felt fortunate to have the support of faculty members outside of academic coursework. They wrote countless recommendations to any and every fellowship or internship that I was interested in. The willingness of faculty and staff to support students’ endeavors is a highlight from my time in the program.  


6. Is there anything else you would like to highlight about yourself, your education, community involvement, career goals, etc.? 

Living in the Middle East changed my perspective completely on living outside the U.S. It expanded my understanding of cultures and I developed a deep appreciation for people, languages, and their heritage. So much that I would love the opportunity to live and work abroad again. I would encourage students to explore their interests fully and consider unique paths that they can take with public health.