Rica Dela Cruz was a 2021-2022 recipient of the Stars of Oceania Scholarship, the RCUH Hawai‘i Graduate Fellowship, the Pauline Stitt Student Assistance Scholarship, the Joseph E. Alicata Award in Public Health, the Frances Ayako Matsuda Fellowship in Public Health and the Abraham Kagan, MD Fellowship.
This is her thank-you letter to donors.
Hafa Adai yan Tirow! My name is Rica Dela Cruz, a native Chamorro from the island of Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands. I am a PhD candidate in public health.
Thank you for providing your award to students like me. I am incredibly grateful for your support. It has allowed me to continue my degree program and conduct my dissertation research to understand influences of childhood diet and physical activity behaviors in my home islands of the Northern Marianas. Because of your endowment, I am able to return home to conduct my research, and I plan to use the results to better understand and improve child diet and physical activity behaviors in my underserved group of islands.
In my free time, I love to go hiking or swimming in the ocean. I try to get outdoors as much as I can. I think it is not only a great way to get some exercise, but also a great stress reliever. Because of my interest in researching dietary patterns, and also due to being at home more during the pandemic, I recently took up cooking as a hobby. I like to try new recipes using locally grown, traditional foods from the Pacific. One of my goals is to increase the intake of traditional and locally grown foods among Pacific Islanders. Because of our history of colonization, we have become dependent on imported goods and have decreased our intake of our traditional foods. I hope that by cooking more traditional foods and sharing my meals, I can inspire more people to eat more of them.
My career goal is to become a public health practitioner and researcher to better health in populations across the greater Micronesia region. After obtaining my degree, I hope to continue conducting relevant research like this to improve health behaviors, reduce preventable non-communicable diseases, and increase life expectancy among Pacific Islanders.
Thank you so much for your awards. I am truly grateful.