In an inspiring display of dedication and unwavering support, Dawn Lewis and her daughter, Imani Daunne Lewis, proudly walked side by side into the Drayson Center for the 2023 commencement services on Friday, June 9, to receive their public health degrees from Loma Linda University School of Public Health in Loma Linda, California, United States.
Dawn, a Doctor of Public Health graduate, advocates for health equity and disease reversal through lifestyle medicine. She is passionate about teaching lifestyle medicine to communities and addressing the prevention of chronic diseases worldwide.
“I want to work in the community to reduce disparities,” Dawn said. “Diabetes has been my primary focus since I entered the field of public health, and I was glad that my dissertation research on faith-based organizations and diabetes education programs brought me back to my main area of interest.”
While living in Texas, Dawn first learned about the Doctor of Public Health degree in Health Education and was captivated by the School of Public Health’s (SPH) wholistic approach to education, combining academics, spirituality, and the opportunity to serve on mission trips. As a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and someone familiar with LLU’s rich history, Dawn was drawn to the institution and was inspired to apply in 2019.
Imani’s academic journey started with her planning to attend school to become a physician assistant. After a year of introspection, she found herself contemplating a different path — one leading her to start her education in the Master of Public Health program in Health Education and Wellness Coaching in 2021.
Upon starting the program, Imani explained she was initially reserved and more on the quiet side. Her experience at SPH helped garner a sense of community and confidence to put herself out there.
“Coming into this program, I was more on the shy side and did not want to put myself out there,” Imani said. “Since I went through the program, I now feel like I can do a lot more; I can push myself and accomplish bigger and better things.”
Dawn and Imani played a pivotal role in each other’s journeys, serving as a constant pillar of strength, picking one another up whenever they needed encouragement. Their steadfast belief in each other helped them to overcome obstacles and complete the program.
“Every time I felt like I would fall, my mom caught me,” Imani said. “She helped me to get through this program and pushed me to be my best self.”
Dawn and Imani shared that the many late nights studying together and completing assignments were not always easy. However, their shared goal of graduating together served as the driving force.
“I was sometimes discouraged about being able to get things done in a certain timeframe,” Dawn said. “But the goal of graduating with Imani kept me pushing through. That was a big blessing and got me here in 2023.”