Undergraduate profile: Kennedy Schaffer

Image created by Grace Rajan, MCAH LEAP Peer Ambassador 2022–23

As the semester comes to an end, we are celebrating one of our undergraduate public health students who is graduating this month: Kennedy Schaffer. Schaffer was part of the first cohort of Advanced Leadership, Education, and Advancement in Undergraduate Pathways (LEAP) Scholars at Berkeley Public Health’s Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health (MCAH) program.

Kennedy Shaffer is a graduating senior majoring in public health and minoring in disability studies. Going into public health was a natural decision for Kennedy, she grew up in a multigenerational family in a multicultural community where adverse health outcomes were normalized. There were many systems at play all working in tandem to access to quality care and access to a better quality of life. Women in the community were disproportionately impacted by environmental stressors and had to pick up the pieces for their families and others around them. These experiences inform and embolden her passion for reproductive justice and advocacy for maternal populations of color, as she works to ensure better health outcomes for those who are often overlooked.

This passion for serving her community serves as a valuable addition to the MCAH LEAP cohort and informs the wealth of experience she has within the MCAH field.

During the summer, Kennedy held multiple positions focusing on the clinical side of public health.  Her experience shadowing surgeons at UCSF put into perspective how medical teams administer care for different patients, which often varies due to implicit and explicit biases in medicine. Her work in labor and delivery put into perspective what she had learned in the MCAH introduction course which focused on understanding how to develop interventions that center the life course and take an intersectional approach to addressing issues in healthcare. Public health is a dynamic field that requires adaptive and innovative approaches to some of the most pressing issues. This is especially true with new and emerging responses to COVID-19, which she was also involved with at UCSF’s Gaw Lab. She performed research on the COVID-19 vaccines efficacy and how it may change during different trimesters throughout pregnancy. Her dedication to MCAH populations continues now, as she works with the Abundant Birth Project Evaluation Study to develop interventions addressing social determinants that contribute to adverse pregnancy outcomes.

Kennedy’s commitment to addressing social determinants within her practice remains strong as she hopes to continue her work within MCAH. She also hopes to eventually become a doctor and pursue an MPH, to further serve communities like her own and work towards a more equitable and just future for families of color.

A version of this story first appeared on the Center of Excellence in MCAH website. Reprinted with permission.