Health equity is a motivator for graduating senior Erica Harp.
Her philosophy is simple: Everyone should have access to affordable, culturally sensitive, and comprehensive health care, no matter your socioeconomic status or identity.
“Community health is so important because it takes a preventive, systemic, and holistic approach to health problems,” said Harp, who is majoring in community health and Spanish, and is a member of Mason’s Honors College. “Public health considers the environmental, political, and social determinants that impact a certain health outcome or make access to health care more difficult for vulnerable communities.”
In 2019, Harp was a research assistant on an OSCAR Summer Team Impact project that developed an eye-tracking study and survey to evaluate what kind of alcohol product packaging is most salient and attractive to youth.
In 2020, she worked with Matthew Rossheim, assistant professor of public health, on another OSCAR Summer Team Project to develop and evaluate counter-marketing against electronic cigarettes. Harp presented a poster with results of this research at the American Academy of Health Behavior’s virtual conference in March 2021.
“Graphic health warnings have been used in cigarette advertising for many years,” Harp said. “But just the past few years, we have seen a lung injury epidemic from e-cigarettes.”
Harp had two study-abroad experiences at Mason: an eight-week Critical Language Scholarship program in India as a part of the U.S. State Department program, and a research project in Argentina, where she investigated the access incarcerated women have to sexual health services.
“I learned a lot about Argentina’s public health care system and what health care delivery looks like across the country and in many of the different providences across Argentina,” she said.
While in Argentina, Harp improved her fluency in Spanish. She currently volunteers at the Culmore Clinic, where she uses her foreign language skills to provide Spanish to English medical interpretation for the Spanish speaking immigrant population.
“Erica is very organized, takes initiative, and has creative solutions,” Rossheim said. “I am very glad to see Erica’s passion for improving public health, safety, and well-being. I have no doubt that she will continue to make great contributions to society.”
Beyond her research, Harp participated in the Honors College Connects program, where she worked with the Cornerstones nonprofit on a neighborhood outreach program and has interned for the National Association of Community Health Centers. She was also part of the Student Health Advisory Board and George Mason Democrats, and was president of Roosevelt at Mason, a policy and advocacy think tank.
As a senior, Harp worked to form a coalition of students who are interested in addressing food insecurity on campus.
“A fantastic part about my time at Mason is being involved in student organizing, advocating for student needs, and bringing awareness to relevant issues,” said Harp, who plans to work for a public health nonprofit in Northern Virginia after graduation.