NAU Communications sat down with Heather Thomas, a Ph.D. student in interdisciplinary health, to get to know her on a more personal level. Read our questions and her answers below.
Tell me about a significant childhood memory and how it has impacted your life today.
Growing up, I never had dental or medical insurance. My parents worked hard, saved and forewent their own medical/dental care so they could pay out-of-pocket for regular preventative care for my sister and me. When they could finally afford to go themselves, they needed a lot of painful treatment, and it broke my heart. It made a real impression on me as a child. I now work in the dental field and am studying to get my Ph.D. in interdisciplinary health and health equity because I have learned that my experience is far too common, and I want a future where that is not the case. No one should have to suffer through the pain (and myriad other socioeconomic consequences) of disease that is preventable or more easily treated early on with access to regular health care (including dental and vision, because they are, in fact, connected to and affect the rest of the body).
What have you been most proud of recently?
Honestly, I am proud of just making it through the first week of the semester. Like many students, I have a family and a full-time job (and am still trying to emerge from the fog of our ‘COVID year’ to feel human again), so tackling the day-to-day is an achievement in itself.
What is your favorite way to spend a day off?
Outdoors! I am someone who needs regular time alone to reboot and also loves spending time with my family, but whoever the company, I find the outdoors rejuvenating and peaceful. There is something about nature that puts life into perspective.
What are three things on your bucket list and why?
Learn to play the piano, because I love music and art and find it feeds my soul. Travel the world, because I enjoy experiencing other cultures and seeing things in person that I’ve only seen in pictures. Become a philanthropist, because I have a passion for helping those in need (and that would mean I have the money to do so 😉).
What is your philosophy in life?
I believe in being kind and considerate of others and working hard to improve the world around us.
You were recently named a vaccine prize winner. Why did you decide to get vaccinated, and what did you win?
Working in health care, I believe and support prevention science and the collective work that has produced a variety of safe and effective vaccines. I got vaccinated to protect myself, my family and my community, particularly those who are most vulnerable. I believe my right not to get vaccinated or wear a mask pales in comparison to the honor and privilege of protecting others by doing both. I won a signed Jae Crowder Phoenix Suns Jersey! Thanks, NAU!
To participate in the drawing, students can upload their COVID vaccine card to the Campus Health Services portal.