Outside the gates of her Mexico City high school, Thalia Porteny would always see kids begging for food. “It made me feel uneasy and frustrated,” said Porteny. “I knew I’d had amazing opportunities given to me, and I felt responsible. I wanted to do something about it, but at the time I didn’t know how.”

Porteny’s discomfort with the disparities she first witnessed as a teenager ultimately led her to Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), where she graduated this May with a master of science in global health and population. And her future plans will keep her around campus: In the fall, she will enter a Ph.D. program in health policy, focused on ethics. Her ultimate goal: to change health policy at the highest levels, so that health resources are more fairly distributed across Mexico and around the world. “I hope my ethics work will inform my health policy work,” she said.

During college, Porteny considered becoming a doctor. After a summer internship with Doctors Without Borders in a clinic in Ghana, she realized that, “by focusing on the individual, I was tending to someone who was already sick. I wanted to do something with higher impact—to help prevent the sickness in the first place.”

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