As a child, Alytah Noum ‘23 helped her mother sign documents, translate medical terms, pay bills and handle other tasks. Her parents, who immigrated to the U.S. in the 1970s to escape the Cambodian genocide, spoke little English. Helping her family to navigate the health care system and to access services in the U.S. inspired her to choose public health as a career.

“I want to help people who are going through the struggles that I went through as a kid,” says Noum, who grew up in Lynn, Massachusetts. “No one deserves to go through that much pressure as a child.”  

The rising senior is already making a difference in people’s lives. For her practicum course experience, Noum was hired by the Lowell Community Health Center as a community health worker addressing social determinants of health. 

“I am a part of the incredible team in the health promotion department of the Lowell Community Health Center that’s helping people get access to health care services,” she says.

One of Noum’s responsibilities is arranging transportation for people to get to their health appointments, including primary care, dental care, rehabilitation services and eye care visits.

“The people that I help struggle with access to daily transportation due to environmental factors out of their control, or they cannot use public transit due to medical reasons,” she says.  

Many of the patients she’s working with are Cambodian, and they treat Noum like family. Born in the United States, Noum gradually lost her ability to speak Khmer over the years. After encountering patients who struggled with language barriers, she is now motivated to learn Khmer again. 

“It feels amazing helping the community,” says Noum. “Every day, patients and clients tell me how grateful they are for my help, and it feels so rewarding. I have had so many valuable experiences in this internship that will contribute to my career development in public health.”

She has enjoyed being able to apply the concepts she’s learned in her courses to real-world situations.  

“My Social Determinants of Health course helped me to understand that where people are born, live, learn and work can make a huge impact on their overall health,” says Noum. “Having that understanding guides me to help the Greater Lowell community more efficiently.”

Accepted into the public health bachelor’s-to-master’s program, Noum will continue her journey of learning to help local communities.

“My UML experience has been amazing, and I wouldn’t hesitate to go through it all over again,” she says.