Being There for Others

Shanique Berry Plans to Use Her Health Sciences Degree to Help Vulnerable Populations

Shanique Berry, of Tampa, Florida, wasn’t sure where her career path would lead because she had interests in several areas, including healthcare and business administration. It wasn’t until her current job as a financial aid officer at Ultimate Medical Academy (UMA) that she realized she could help  people in other areas of life by pursuing a career in the health sciences. She also realized that doing so meant going back to school with Excelsior College to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences with an emphasis in public health.

After high school, Berry went to a magnet school for allied health to pursue a career as a pediatrician, but after graduating, she switched gears and went to Cleveland State University for business administration. She got a job in the new student finance section of the financial aid department at Ultimate Medical Academy in Tampa and as she moved around in different sections of the department, she realized just how much she enjoyed helping students take care of their tuition so they could achieve their goals. “If they can eliminate that from worrying about school, and just focus on academics, then that’s good for me,” she says of helping students with the financial burden of pursuing their education.

Berry knows first-hand the daily challenges vulnerable populations experience. She explains that in Jamaica, where she was born, medical resources are limited. Many times, Jamaicans emigrate to the United States to receive better education opportunities and medical services. Berry explains her grandfather became very ill in Jamaica and went through a complicated process to receive medical care in the United States. She shares that when he returned to his home country, he passed away because he didn’t have access to the care he needed. With plans for a career change in the future, Berry intends to help people like her grandfather get the support and access to resources they need. “My goal is to help people, [to] focus on vulnerable groups that don’t really have a voice of themselves,” she says, adding that one of the areas of public health she’d like to explore more is mental health.

Through a partnership between Ultimate Medical Academy and Excelsior College, Berry receives a tuition discount. That benefit, plus the acceptance of credit earned at Cleveland State University, has put her on a path to earn her bachelor’s degree. Online learning was hard for her to get used to at first, but the flexibility enables her to fit school into her busy schedule and allows her to spend more time with her daughters.

Excelsior’s courses have been beneficial to Berry, too. She seeks to apply what she has learned so far to a career in health sciences. For instance, Berry says through assignments for her courses, she has been able to implement the most desirable and ethical solutions to address health concerns while being able to advocate for the public. She hopes to pull what she has learned from creating her own development plans into caring for culturally diverse communities.

She also enjoys being able to incorporate her culture and background into her assignments. COMM 125 Public Speaking, HUM 230 The Ethics of Friendship, and HSC 464 Health Science Capstone have been some of her favorite courses in the undergraduate program. Public Speaking, for instance, has opened her eyes to the outside world and what to expect in a public setting. Berry says, “I have to say the hardest part for me and throughout the entire experience is just the workload…with [being] a full-time mom and doing the full-time job, it’s just demanding, but you just have to somehow find the time to do it all.”

As of now, Berry wants to continue working at UMA until she completes her bachelor’s and then master’s degrees. She says she works in stages and right now, she is focusing on this stage of her life and what is best for her and her daughters. But she is determined to complete her degree: “It’s mainly me, it’s my devotion. I know what I want in life. And I know where I want to be. So, my mindset is to get things done.”