The Yale School of Public Health offered local high school students and Yalies a brief glimpse into the field during its sixth annual Diversity Day program on Saturday.

The public event, hosted by the Office of Admissions, offered minority high school students a free introduction to the field of public health aimed at giving them a better understanding of the career opportunities available in the discipline. The program featured addresses by professors Curtis Patton and Melinda Pettigrew, as well as speeches by an alumnus and current students.

The idea was originally conceived in an effort to recruit potential students from underrepresented minority backgrounds to the field of public health and to the M.P.H. program at Yale. Shaan Chaturvedi EPH ’08 said the program is important because though many students are interested in the field, they are not aware they can pursue a career based on those interests.

“It kindles that fire in a student,” he said. “Students get interested in public health by having real experiences, but they may just not know what career opportunities there may be to pursue the issues they care about.”

Yalies interested in the field of public health said Diversity Day gives high school students exposure to a discipline which is not open to them in the normal course of their education. This early introduction is important because the field is not well publicized, they said.

“The field of public health is not by any means popular or glorified like being a doctor or lawyer,” Michael Linares ’09 said. “I wasn’t really aware that this field was an important and viable one to work in before I came here.”

Kathryn Foti EPH ’08 said public health education is particularly important as it has a direct effect on quality of life.

“Public health is a part of our daily lives,” Foti said. “If we start educating people about things like disease risk factors and health policy at a younger age, future generations will be more prepared to face health-related challenges and better able to adopt a healthy lifestyle.”

The event allowed the public to interact with alumni and professors who have dedicated their lives to studying public health, which encompasses issues such as health care, poverty and the environment.

Focusing on minority students, the program stressed the important racial and socioeconomic aspect of public health. Ben Deen ’09, who works for the Yale Journal of Public Health, said that because public health issues are often specific to minority communities, it is important that these students become aware of the opportunities available to them.

“Public health really allows people, especially minorities, to affect great change and help out the communities they come from,” Deen said.

Chaturvedi said that while there may be a lack of information about public health careers available to the students, there is never a lack of interest among youth in topics related to public health.

“Nowadays, as our society is increasingly global, students are getting to see and understand what the world is like,” he said. “The interest is definitely in students to care about their surroundings, and that’s what public health is all about.”