New student Abigail Suleman: ‘I grew up hearing stories of family and friends in Nigeria struggling to access health care’

Abigail Suleman

Abigail Suleman 

Age: 21
Hometown: Rockford, Illinois
Major/Program: Master of Public Health with a concentration in Maternal and Child Health
Graduation Year: 2023

What is one thing you want people to know about you?
My background as a multidisciplinary artist informs my perspective. As a teen, I spent my summers at a local youth art summer program. Each summer, I focused on one art form at a time. One year it was printmaking and another filmmaking, then performing arts, and later creative writing. But my artistic expressions built off one another. Being in this community space where an adult artist invested in us, where we could sell our art and where we engaged with people of different backgrounds, was fundamental to my growing identity. Those experiences informed my deep appreciation for and longing to work in communities, equip their youth and address multiple sectors of health.

What degree are you pursuing and what inspired you to choose this path? Is there a personal experience that comes to mind?
I am earning a Master of Public Health with a concentration in Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology (MCH EPI). This degree was very important to me because I grew up hearing stories of family and friends in Nigeria struggling to access health care for their chronic or emergency health conditions. Scenarios like these always made me think of the larger health of the population and especially those who were underserved. When considering a concentration, I realized that my connection to my grandmother and my interest in menstrual equity and birthwork could help me shape this degree. I think that this concentration will help me to better understand the patterns and intersections within MCH and to provide the evidence needed to improve public health issues.

Why did you choose UIC?
I graduated from UIC with degrees in chemistry and French, so I was already comfortable with the physical and social environment of the school. I decided to apply after a global health professor and researcher, Dr. Supriya Mehta, who was also very interested in sustainable menstruation options, began to mentor me and connect me with new resources. Although I applied to other amazing schools, I chose UIC because of the availability of funding and the opportunity to navigate my own journey through my research interests in menstrual health. 

Are there specific experiences and/or learning opportunities you are looking forward to having as a student?
I am very excited to be learning about epidemiological computing. I hope that this time next year I will be teaching others how to navigate coding software like SAS and R. In addition, as an Irving Harris Scholar, I am looking forward to organizing the Spring Symposium and working on evaluations and other projects with Dr. Arden Handler. The Applied Practice Experience excites me the most. I think this practicum will help me connect the new things I’m learning and grow closer to the communities that I hope to work with as soon as I graduate.

Looking in the future, what do you want to see for yourself, your community, the world?
I see myself communicating in several languages in order to provide better health care; I want to be able to speak French fluently and meet more people who communicate in ASL. I can see my life traveling and working in partnership with communities to reach their potential. I look forward to the day when pregnant people in my community can access doulas and midwives whose care for long-term wellness is covered — no matter their insurance. Overall, I would love for youth to be able to live healthy and well lives, making art, traveling, learning, and serving everyone of all ages and experiences.

What Chicago places/activities/neighborhoods are you looking forward to exploring? 
I can’t wait to visit the beach and become a member of a Chicago community with a community garden.

How do you like your pizza: deep dish or thin? What toppings?
I like regular crust with a very saucy and cheesy top. Most veggies welcome!

What was your favorite subject in middle school?

Who or what inspires you?
Youth making it happen/demonstrating passion.

What is your favorite place on the UIC campus so far?
African American Cultural Center Library 

Read more fall 2021 new student profiles online.

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