When she was three years old, Stefany Diaz (PH ’24) and her family moved from Honduras to Far Rockaway, Queens, New York. Unfortunately, their new home wasn’t ideal—they endured poor sanitation and an unsafe environment. Diaz’s mother, “the rock of my life” as she lovingly refers to her, worked hard to relocate them to better living conditions. She worked as a maid receiving about a hundred dollars a week for her hard work; eventually she was able to move her children to a better situation.
Still, life was not easy. As Diaz learned English, she became an invaluable translator for her family. She helped her mother understand conversations at church and information on insurance and medical documents. She felt purpose in these acts and volunteered at a community center to help others as they transitioned to life in the United States. Diaz continually worked hard and became a pioneer for her family.
Diaz attended BYU-Idaho and struggled to know what to do with her future. An advisor from New York helped steer her toward public health. Though apprehensive, Diaz took what she calls a “leap of faith.” She has found her path forward in her postgraduate studies and says, “I’m definitely getting the epidemiology certificate. . . I really am interested in environmental epidemiology.” Regarding her career plans, Diaz says, “I want to travel worldwide and see how I can help. But because of my childhood, I have seen cities even in the United States that have conditions you would see in third-world countries—there’s a lot of work to be done here.”
Diaz wants to bring public health information to people in Far Rockaway and other communities that “don’t have much of a say or who don’t know how to advocate for themselves yet.” She fully believes that everyone can stand up and speak for themselves and ideally everyone would, but she is aware of how difficult that can be sometimes.
In an effort to advocate for such populations, Diaz is working with the Bountiful Children’s Foundation, which serves nineteen different countries to help prevent child malnourishment. She is also working on a project that is concerned with the laws and policies of foreign countries. She researches and reaches out to officials in ten different countries to ensure individuals can be healthy by receiving supplements. She is also involved in another research project that involves Spanish translation and tries to answer the question of “What can be done?” regarding public health in developing nations. In addition, she is helping educate the public about missing or murdered indigenous women in the Utah area throughout the decades and is working on a health impact analysis.
“I’m just a normal woman who has had big dreams for herself and made it happen. You don’t have to be the smartest person in the world to do these things,” Diaz says. “You just have to have grit, resilience, and really remember who you are and where you come from. For me, that is who I am. I just love people and I’m going to keep doing things that will always help people. Stick to who you are and stick to the plans that you have dreamt of for so long.”
Diaz was the first in her family to graduate from high school in America, the first to graduate with an undergraduate degree, and will be the first to earn a graduate degree.
“My name is resilient. I think that’s what my whole life has been.”