Spotlight: Brenda Robles, PhD MPH

Bruin Strong

Brenda Robles, PhD, MPH (‘07, ‘10, ‘18) is a THREE TIME Bruin based in Los Angeles who currently works for the Los Angeles Department of Public Health battling the spread of COVID-19. Before the pandemic took over, she served solely as the chief research analyst for nutrition and health programs. Her education, training, and Spanish skills have made her an invaluable asset performing contract tracing and helping to mitigate risk in the Latino community. "It's something so novel and not like anything any of us have experienced, including the health department," she confided. 

The Good Samaritan 

At the start of the pandemic, Robles started sewing masks for the public. "I just wanted to do something. It started out just me making masks for myself and my family. And the next thing you know, me and my mom and dad made around 1,300 masks. We are part of the Aunty Sewing Club- it’s a grassroots mutual aid network dedicated to making masks to stop the spread of Covid-19. They sent masks to populations who didn't have access to them like immigration groups and tribal nations like the Navajo Nation. She reminds Bruins to follow the health recommendations, “It’s important to do our part to keep other people safe who don’t have the option.Try to limit the spread so it doesn’t put essential workers and other essential workers at greater risks.” She hopes enough vaccines will be made available to the general public to help get us out of this pandemic, “I see the light with the vaccine.” 

Thriving Beyond Imposter Syndrome

Brenda shares that her experience at UCLA was exciting and exposed her to numerous learning opportunities. She shares, with great self-assurance, that she didn’t have everything figured out before entering her field, “Public Health was something I was always interested in, but I wasn’t aware it was a career choice,” reflected Robles. She made her way from a Chicano Studies major (a route she was influenced to take by a peer counselor supporting first generation students) to the world of public health by participating in UCLA campus groups and discovering her passions through those experiences. 

“I’ve made really amazing friends in all three chapters of my Bruin life,” she says but describes some of her fondest moments in her undergrad years being part of student groups and experiencing college for the first time as a first gen student. “A lot of us first gens, we’ve had to overcome a lot of struggles and assumptions about people. It’s not a cake walk. I vividly remember my high school teacher telling us that we were the cream of the crop at our school, but that we would fail at UCLA (wasn’t she wrong!).

Remind yourself that you deserve to be at UCLA. Sometimes imposter syndrome can set in and that can be a challenge for a lot of first gen people, including myself! I had to learn to be confident and realize that I’m qualified,” she urged. She added that it’s important to be ok with failing, “It’s ok to not always succeed --  be open minded.” 

Bruin Advice

She urges Bruins entering the workforce to find a job that compensates them and drives them. 


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