Dahiana Loaiza ’14, MS GHPM/MA SID’21

Dahiana Loaiza

AmeriCorps CityYear alumnus

Recipient of the Heller Diversity and Inclusion Scholarship 

For Dahiana Loaiza ’14, MS GHPM/MA SID’21, giving back to her community is her top career goal. “I knew from a young age that I wanted to work with the Latinx community, on health disparities specifically,” she says. The child of immigrants from Colombia, Loaiza was born and raised in East Boston. “From personal experience, I saw my family struggle with the language barrier and face difficulties getting access to resources."

She completed her undergraduate degree at Brandeis in 2014 with dual majors in Psychology and HSSP (Health, Science, Society and Policy). After graduating she completed a year of AmeriCorps service with City Year, where she requested a placement in her home community. She ended up at the Guild Elementary School in East Boston, where she worked with students on behavior management and social emotional learning

Of her City Year experience, she says, “I really saw how health played a role in student success, very directly in why some students were not present.” Loaiza described one student she worked with who was smart and interested in learning, but often distracted at school due to issues at home. Eventually she stopped attending school altogether. Loaiza stepped in to speak with the student’s mother, who was also Colombian, and connected with her on a more personal level

“I gave her my personal information so she could reach out to me. The student felt that that conversation helped a lot, and we checked in more often after that. It helped her do better, and she felt a lot safer going to school. I think having a holistic approach is necessary for education and for health.” 

After City Year, Loaiza decided to return to Brandeis for graduate school. Several of her undergraduate HSSP courses had been taught by Heller faculty members—a big factor in her eventual decision to apply there for graduate school. “Those classes were very much focused on discussion and on critical thinking,” she says. “It felt like a community at Heller. Those classes were focused on everybody’s contributions to the class, and how to support the group as a whole in their learning. I wanted more of that.”

She’s enrolled in dual degrees, spending her first year earning an MS in Global Health Policy and Management, and her second year earning an MA in Sustainable International Development. With this unique blend she hopes to build a career working on solutions to health disparities for Latinx communities in the U.S. and globally.

“I’m mostly focused on health resources allocated to marginalized communities,” she says. “Even within Latinx populations, there’s marginalized sub-communities, such as indigenous folks. I’m interested in looking at why these health disparities exist, despite resources that have been made available. Often those communities haven’t been able to access them.”

Although Loaiza has found the quantitative nature of the MS curriculum a challenge, she says her cohort has made all the difference. “We have a very supportive community and we’re all there to help each other. The professors are very approachable, they’re always telling us to come visit them, and they really make themselves available. 

“The MS program is rigorous—it’s intense, but we get through it together, and I think that’s very important.”