Promoting Better Healthcare for All
Marisa DaCosta '22
Public Health, Commonwealth Honors College
“My mentor exemplifies what it means to truly love the work that you do and to care about the people it affects.”
Marisa DaCosta has aspired to be an ob/gyn since attending high school in Dartmouth, Mass. Her public health research experience at UMass Amherst expanded her vision: she wants to reform health care to provide better health care for all.
Since her sophomore year, DaCosta has worked in the Quality for All (Q4A) lab under the direction of Associate Professor of Public Health Sarah Goff. Q4A aims to address inequities in health and health care through research, education, and public policy. Its focus areas include DaCosta’s top interests—maternal/child health and health equity.
I’ve been surprised by how low the quality of care can be for certain populations and how pervasive health care disparities are. This motivates me to be the best I can be and to continue this work to try to improve health care in the U.S.
Under the direction of Goff, who is a practicing pediatrician and internist as well as a health care researcher, DaCosta co-authored a paper on women's perspectives on doula care in Springfield, Mass., which was published in Health Equity, and contributed to two COVID-related papers. She is working on a paper concerning COVID experiences early in the pandemic and is a key team member on another study evaluating an integrated mental health program for pediatric patients.
DaCosta started out doing literature reviews and then learned how to conduct interviews, create codebooks, and use software to analyze qualitative data. “Qualitative health research can be challenging because it calls on both your inductive and deductive reasoning skills,” she says. “You must use critical thinking to understand what participants are trying to say and to see patterns in the data.”
Goff calls DaCosta a team player with the curiosity and tenacity of a full-fledged researcher. In turn, DaCosta is inspired by her mentor’s dedication. “Dr. Goff always impresses on us why we’re doing this work and what the ultimate goals are,” she says.
To further prepare for a career as a physician and for a possible PhD, DaCosta is earning UMass Amherst certificates in Health and Spanish, Civic Engagement and Public Service, and the International Scholars Program. She also works as a certified nursing assistant and is active in the Boltwood Project, a student group that aids people with disabilities.
“I’ve been surprised by how low the quality of care can be for certain populations and how pervasive health care disparities are,” she says. “This motivates me to be the best I can be and to continue this work to try to improve health care in the U.S.”