Go Folic! and SFDPH Welcome Daniella Coker!

We are excited to welcome Daniella Coker to the Go Folic! family.  Daniella will be interning with Go Folic!’s parent organization, the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s Family Planning and Preconception Health Program.  Daniella, an intern from the California Family Health Council’s Family Title X Open Doors Program will be doing an assessment of San Francisco women’s family planning and preconception health needs.  Here is Daniella in her own words!


Daniella Coker is an intern from the California Family Health Council's Open Door PRogramHi, my name is Daniella Coker and I am a recent graduate from UC Berkeley in Molecular and Cell Biology. I speak Spanish and am half Italian from my mother’s side, although she was born and raised in Venezuela. I love photography, camping, and traveling. I have been to Europe, Central and South America, and hope to visit Southeast Asia someday!

One of the things I am most proud of is actively seeking out and becoming involved in UC Berkeley’s chapter of MEDLIFE, because it inspired my interest in the field of public health. This club provided me with the opportunity to visit Ecuador and Peru to learn about their healthcare systems, and to provide clinical support to local physicians.

My basic clinical duties included assisting gynecologists with Pap smears, interacting with women to encourage them to be tested, and maintaining a comfortable environment for those who were already being tested. It was clear that many of these women felt embarrassed to discuss their reproductive health and/or had never gotten a Pap smear during their previous visits to the doctor’s.

This experience taught me first-hand the prevalence of discomfort regarding the topic of reproductive health. We cannot deny that we are not sexual beings. Unfortunately, people of many cultures tend to feel embarrassed when talking about reproductive health, even though it is as an important aspect of health as our mental and physical well-being.

I held various laboratory positions during college, working on projects ranging from studying the effects of stress on the growth of neuronal stem cells to optimizing a DNA extraction method for a biotechnology company. My most recent position was for three months in Managua, Nicaragua studying the incidence of different influenza subtypes in children. This laboratory position, however rewarding, motivated me to look for public health opportunities outside of the lab, thus landing me the position within MCAH’s Family Planning Program.

I am very excited about interning with MCAH’s Family Planning Program, not only because of its emphasis on preventative care but also because these resources are being made accessible to people of varying socioeconomic statuses and cultural backgrounds. I will be working on this year’s needs assessment of Family Planning services within SFDPH’s community clinics. I am most excited about fulfilling an active role for this study and getting hands-on experience with a different aspect of public health research!

Thoughts and Reflections of an Intern: Why Public Health is Important


Go Folic! Intern, Sharonya Shrivastava

The end is near.

It is the end of another semester of the college experience, another school year, my time as a lowerclassman and my time as a younger Berkeley student.

As finals fast approach, I look inward and think to myself, what have I learned over the course of the past semester? Has the knowledge I have accumulated been put to use and then simply discarded, or have I retained enough to pull through these last couple of weeks with accomplishment? These reflections are crucial, not just to the successful completion of my semester, but for life in general.

Mark Twain once said, “I’ve never let my school interfere with my education.” Though I don’t completely agree with the sentiment, I do think sometimes learning in school must be separated from knowledge through experiences, surroundings and life in general.

So what have I learned during these past 12 or so weeks that has strengthened my teenage wisdom? Well, enough to know that change affects in the deepest of ways, but is an important experience. With new experiences come new realizations, and I had quite a few epiphanies of this kindthis semester. Many ideas were affirmed me, and at the same time, I was made aware of things I didn’t realize I didn’t know.

  • The fact that life is all about balance. Affirmed.
  • Time management is key for task completion. Affirmed.
  • But first impressions can change in the most dramatic of ways? Unbelievable, even to this day. I was made aware of limits I didn’t realize existed, and capabilities I never knew I could reach.

If I could talk about any particular aspect of my education at length, it would have to be the public health information I have learned this semester. In almost a four month time period, I feel as if my public health knowledge has vastly expanded, and I have gained more of an understanding of public health as an idea, a mission, and a goal, rather than as just another occupation on the job market.

I learned absolutely everything revolves around information, a point that attending school for the past 16 years still had not driven home. This is why change is so crucial, because it spurs new ideas, fresh perspectives and a whole new outlook on life and its possibilities. I feel I gained this, and more, during my time spent as an intern for the Go Folic! Nutrition Project.

One of the most important aspects that came to my attention was that the resources for the health and well being of people are out there. There are so many organizations and groups established, dedicated to helping people and doing good deeds in the community, and all it takes is for people to know of their existence. Though some may be small, they are strong, in their causes and the aid they provide. 

I have no doubt in my mind that people can gain the greatest help or insight from a simple nutrition project, or a school health center, because each individual organization is so important and powerful in the grand scheme of health and human life. I know I often take for granted and accept the status of my life, but I, and hopefully people in general, will keep reminding themselves that help and support is always there whenever its needed, whether it is in the form of family, friends or organizations such as these.

This is why public health is so important. It is a field that teaches compassion, critical thinking, awareness and acceptance. It advocates simple but powerful ideas, such as solving a problem by going back to the source, gathering information and research to gain ideas and teaching awareness to promote understanding.

Public health is so important to me, now more than ever, because it has affirmed and supported my desire to pursue medicine, something that I have been questioning and grappling with my reasons for some time. But on top of that, I have come to the conclusion that public health is the perfect complement (and basis) to the medical career, and at this moment in time, I would like to pursue both in the future because of my experiences up until today. Medicine provides knowledge about the underlying issues of public health problems, while public health seeks to provide a broader outlook on health beyond the individual, specialized interactions, and together, with all the awareness and information each field provides, the possibilities for change can only be beneficial.

I am so thankful for the people I have met, the experiences I have had, and the ideas I have learned. I will continue to be inspired and motivated by the great work being accomplished in the health field, medicine and public health alike. I hope that one day, I too can have such an impact on the people and world around me as all this has had on myself as an individual.

School, health, education, awareness, realization and change. A new beginning is just around the corner.

This blog post was written by Sharonya Shrivastava.

Thank you so much for reading my blogs this semester! I wish the best of luck to the Go Folic! Nutrition Project and to all future interns who will get the chance to work and blog for this wonderful organization!

Celebrate Your Worth! Letter to Your 16 Year Old Self

Challenge 10 of this year’s Health Activist Writer’s  Challenge Month

Recognize your worth!  
You have so much to give, don’t doubt your gifts.  Don’t allow anyone else to make you doubt them.

Recognize your worth!
Believe in your ability to set and reach goals, to overcome challenges, and to accept help when offered.

Recognize your worth!
Celebrate your body!  Though advertisers and the diet industry would have you believe otherwise (their profits depend on your and other women’s insecurities), beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and the number on the scale is only a number.

Recognize your worth!
Love your body, its curves, its strength, all the things it does for you.  Honor it with healthy eats, rest, movement – all for their own sakes, and for joy of the body rather than in pursuit of some unattainable and unhealthy heroin chic media promoted impossible ideal.

Recognize your worth!
You have the right to and deserve respect, honesty and consideration in relationships – whether with romantic partners, friends and family members.  You have the right to set limits, to express desire and to experience pleasure.

Recognize your worth.
Treat yourself with the same consideration that you would show to the people you love.

With love, not only for myself but for every other woman in my life, as well…


Celebrating National Public Health Week: From Mary Hansell, SFDPH MCAH Director

This week is National Public Health Week ( #nphw ).  Spearheaded by the American Public Health Association, the observance is dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of public health. This year’s theme is “A Healthier America Begins Today” as #NPHW focuses on a holistic approach to disease prevention and wellness. Since Go Folic! is part of the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) Maternal Child and Adolescent Health Section, we decided to ask our MCAH Director, Mary Hansell, DrPH, PHN, RN, to share what she calls her “elevator statement” on public health.  So, without futher ado…


It’s National Public Health Week. This is a wonderful time to tell your friends and acquaintances about your job and spread the word about why public health efforts are important. I am always glad to talk about MCAH when someone asks me about my work. In my “elevator speech”, I say that I work for SFDPH in the section dedicated to Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health. I tell the person that we work with families that have children, in the community, and try to improve health. I say that MCAH is a variety of professionals, including nurses, nutritionists and physical and occupational therapists, working with kids who are healthy and kids with severe disabilities. I say we do home visits, work on the phone and in nutrition clinics. I say that I love my job. Most of the time, the conversation moves on to other topics at that point but it shifts with the person knowing something about Public Health and my ongoing love for this work.

If you work in the field of public health, I’d love to hear your “elevator speech”. I am sure I would learn something from it. Please feel free to post it in a comment here, or on the Go Folic! Facebook page or Twitter feed – @gofolic #elevatorspeech.

Go Folic! Wecomes Sharonya Shrivastava

Hello everyone! My name is Sharonya Shrivastava, and I am excited to be the new Family Planning Intern for the San Francisco Department of Public Health Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health Section! During this spring semester, I will be utilizing social networking websites to increase awareness of the Go Folic! Women’s Nutrition Project and blog, as well as conduct outreach for the project and MCAH programs in the community.

I am from Granite Bay, CA, a suburban town a half an hour northeast ofSacramento, CA, but am currently residing in Berkeley, CA. I am a sophomore at the University of California, Berkeley, intending to major in Integrative Biology.

I am also on the pre-medical track, but of late have been delving into the public health sector of the health field. As far as past health experience goes, I have been a participating member of the American Diabetes Association’s Walk for Diabetes, and have raised funds and awareness towards the organization and research into diabetes treatment and prevention.

I have also interned at Roseville Internal Medicine, a private practice in my hometown, where I was able to observe front desk and office interactions as well as manage patient files and other office paperwork. I am eager to begin working as a Family Planning Intern because I will finally get the chance to be involved directly in the public health sector through this organization!

I am looking forward to blogging for the Go Folic! Women’s Nutrition Project because I enjoy this style of writing and method of communication. Over the summer, I was a Featured Blogger for YouthNoise (just merged with mobilize.org), a social media website in which young people blog about various issues or ideas of interest and reach other youth their age.

This was a wonderful experience, because I was essentially given an open space to blog about one of my passions: the environment. Through the blog, I was able to reach others, both young and old, who shared my very same interests. In this way, I learned a lot about the field I was writing about through my research for each biweekly blog.

I hope to gain knowledge and resources in the same way from this internship, so I will build skills to speak confidently about this particular health issue as well as learn more about it from Go Folic! clients and supporters.  I cannot wait to get started!

Healthy Women Bios – Anna Torrens Armstrong

Our Healthy Women Bio series is back with an interview with Anna Torrens Armstrong. Anna is a fitness instructor and online adjunct faculty member in Public Health. She is also a loving mother to her two year old son, Jack. Thank you Anna for sharing your thoughts on folic acid with us!

What can you tell us about folic acid?

It is so important for women to take to help prevent birth defects…even when you aren’t planning, your body is!

Why do you think it’s important to take a multi-vitamin?

I think it’s important because I am a very busy person and sometimes, despite my best efforts, I just can’t get all the vitamins I need from food – so I do a one a day.

What tips do you use to help remember to take your vitamins?

I keep them by my coffee maker – I never start the day without my coffee…I can’t miss it that way.

Why is women’s health important?

For me personally, its important simply because I am a woman. But I think at a societal level it is important for many reasons – we are unique in that we have children and our bodies have been such a mystery for so long. I think by helping women, in general, harness the power of being a woman, embrace it, and teach and provide for our unique health issues, our society will benefit from such efforts as a whole.

What do you like to do to be healthy?

I love to run, lift weights, travel, chase (and be chased) by my two year old son Jack, eat healthy and laugh. It is part of my lifestyle as well as my family’s lifestyle.

Is nutrition important when cooking traditional recipes?

Absolutely – I have adapted several cuban meals I cook to be healthier (but still taste great).

How do personal health practices relate to sexual health?

I think these two issues go hand in hand and sexual health is a part of personal health practices (doing it safely, knowing your body, being open with your partner, etc.).

Is being beautiful related to being healthy?

Absolutely – I think healthy puts a whole new spin on what it means to be beautiful. Some ideas of beauty, unfortunately, seem to evoke unhealthy images. Hopefully, the paradigm shift towards healthy as a new standard will also trickle into some of the images we see.