Ashley Estrada, a pandemic graduate, received her B.A. in Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago. In a turn of events, Ashley’s career, thus far, has been centered on the COVID-19 pandemic, but she doesn’t mind. In fact, her first role at a quarantine station at O’Hare International Airport led to her decision to work in a more local health care setting and her start at Erie.
What inspired you to pursue a career in public health?
I started as a biology major and was initially supposed to be pre-med. I felt that my focus was a bit too broad for what makes me happy as a person. I started to volunteer at Pure Health Exchange. We would offer free health education to freshman and sophomores at underfunded high schools in Chicago. It served as a mentoring program because we were taught not to treat ourselves like teachers and be actual peers to these students, and it was inspiring. That made me completely change my major, hang out with a different crowd, and seek other opportunities that would help me get to this place in my life.
What is your favorite Erie memory?
Around this time last year, we launched Protect Chicago Plus. We worked in partnership with the city and the Chicago Department of Public Health. We occupy a Catholic Charities warehouse in the poor community, and we gave free vaccines to the community for six weeks. That was my favorite memory of Erie because I got to see so many faces, meet many leaders here at Erie, and see everyone come together to make things work here.
What surprised you most about working at Erie?
What surprised me most about working at Erie is realizing that there is no job too small, and everyone does have a say here. I was at the first dress rehearsal for Epic in at Erie Division, and we had a debrief session where everyone had a chance to say, “Hey, this is what worked, and this is what didn't work, and this is what I would like to see change”. That’s important because everyone in a health care facility is going to carry the weight, carry the facility itself. We all must work together to make things as efficient and optimized as possible to ensure that we treat our patients with the quality care they deserve.
What is the coolest part of your job?
The coolest part of my job is being an important piece to combating this pandemic. It's cool to be at the forefront of battling this pandemic and being a large part of public health.
When I'm not working, I enjoy...
Cooking and spending time with my friends, I feel that I have missed out so much in the past couple of years because of this pandemic, and it's nice to just sit back, grab a beer, and enjoy a bad movie with people that I love. I do it to remember that it's nice to enjoy ourselves, and it doesn't always have to be about working all the time.
What is your favorite dish?
I love to make Mexican dishes because I'm Mexican, and it reminds me a lot of living at home. I would say my favorite dish is Carne en su Jugo. It's a meat broth soup. It has bacon, steak, pinto beans, and avocado. It's nice and hearty and reminds me of home.
Do you have a favorite quote or mantra?
I would say to keep on keeping on. You can't let one thing stop you from moving forward, and you shouldn't hold on to something that might put a damper on your step.
What is your favorite movie?
I like bad romcoms. I also liked Turning Red, which I most recently saw. I love how, with millennial filmmakers, Disney movies are homing in on family apologizing and generational trauma. Disney has such a way of captivating young people and putting our feelings into a picture that we can all relate to. I think it's important that they highlight diverse cultures and different parts of generational trauma. Parents are apologizing onscreen, and the filmmakers are making it fun and cute with cute songs.
In less than 10 words, what advice would you give a new Erie employee?
Don't be afraid to ask questions, and don't be scared to be wrong. In any working environment, the goal is to continue to learn. It's important to voice ideas that you might be a little shy to say and put out there into the world. Don’t be afraid to be wrong because you never know what you can learn.
Why is minority health awareness important?
Erie does an excellent job of focusing on minority populations by offering quality health care. I feel it's essential to honor minority health because we need to build awareness for specific people who might face some burden due to health disparities, where they grew up, or which part of their city they currently live.