August 31, 2022
Gabby Nadir’s budding interest in public health began when she worked at a convalescent hospital at 18 years old.
“The majority of the patients there were suffering from Alzheimer’s,” Nadir said. “It was devastating to me that it [didn’t] matter who you were, what you did in life or how you educated you were. [They] were just human, and [they couldn’t] remember their kids. [It] was heartbreaking to see this situation.”
This experience motivated Nadir to pursue public health, specifically around gerontology and aging. As a public health graduate student and former HERE Center intern, Nadir’s goal is to improve the quality of life of older adults, particularly, underserved communities who may not have access to help or services.
“[We see] these people deteriorating over time, and then they just die in the end,” Nadir said. “So how can we do better?”
Nadir took up community health education as part of the public health graduate program at California State University, Northridge. Within the program, students learn how to teach health education. Nadir chose to focus on aging adults.
“I did gerontology, [which] is geared towards health education for older adults,” Nadir said. “So we taught them about STIs, taught them about preventing falls and the importance of vaccinations—public health related topics.”
She also received her gerontology certificate during this time.
For her thesis, Nadir studied undocumented Latinx older adults living in Los Angeles and how they navigate [healthcare] without having documentation.“
I was very interested in knowing how they deal with it, where they go to the doctor, how they purchase their medicine, who helps them and who takes care of them,” Nadir said.
Nadir described her work with her thesis as a self-learning experience. When she started her thesis, she found it difficult to gather a committee despite building relationships for years. During this time, she found out about the Health Equity Research and Education (HERE) Center.
“I was working at the Institute for Community Health and Wellbeing, and I learned about the HERE Center through that because we highlight other organizations on campus through the institute,” Nadir said. “I was trying to learn about grant writing. I wanted to be involved and learn more.”
Nadir reached out to Dr. Carrie Saetermoe and asked if she could work as an intern at the HERE Center. Saetermoe said yes and introduced her to Dr. Nelida Duran. Nadir described with Duran as a wonderful mentor and human being.
“Even though she was not in my specific department, she was so willing to help me,” Nadir said. “I just cannot thank her enough for everything that I have learned from her—for sharing her wisdom, her knowledge and guiding me through the process of writing this thesis.”
Eventually, she was able to find other committee members for her thesis with Duran’s help.
During her internship, Nadir shared her struggled balancing her academic life, professional life, and personal life.
“I’m a mother of three [as well as] an intern, student and a project coordinator at the institute,” Nadir said. “It was hard to balance everything, but I think the pandemic made it more difficult because you had to everything from home [while] everyone else was at home.”
Nadir expressed that things would have been very different if everything was held in-person.
At the HERE Center, Nadir also attended weekly grant writing meetings. She looked for grants and wrote bits and pieces for grants. This all led to her being able to write her own mini grant to open her own small business, a community health education program named Los Ultimos Años.
“I am going to open my own community health education [program] for older adults, caregivers and the youth to prepare them for old age,” Nadir said. “I feel, especially in my community, that part is missing.”
Nadir went on to say that within her community, children taking care of their again parents is a cultural norm, but she believes it needs to change little by little. She stressed the importance of planning for the future even though it might be a painful topic for some.
“You know, a lot of these folks are spending all their savings in medical care for their parents, and they’re not saving for their own aging,” Nadir said. “At the same time, they’re raising children, and they don’t have the tools to care for their aging parents.”
With Los Ultimos Años, Nadir aims to hold classes in Spanish to focus on her community.
Ultimately, Nadir is proud of her journey both as a student and a researcher. During the process of conducting her thesis, she enjoyed her experience interacting with the community and learning about what their needs were.
“I think that is the best way to do this kind of research with [the] specific, vulnerable and narrow population that I chose,” Nadir said. For future HERE Center interns, Nadir advised that students have to believe in themselves.
“Everything is a learning process. Trust the process,” Nadir said. “It may take baby steps, but you will get there, and [there’s] no better place than the HERE Center where there’s so many supportive faculty, staff and personnel.