Finding Your Niche

Twining (r), with her mentor Stephanie Fugal, M.S., plans to develop programs for midwives in third-world countries.

Many students come to BYU hoping to find a program that fills them with a sense of purpose and belonging. For Leslie Twining, her niche was in the Department of Health Science. “I found something I was so passionate about that it was hard not to think about it all the time,” Twining said. A true humanitarian, Leslie loves helping those less fortunate than herself and has discovered that for her, majoring in public health was a perfect fit. Twining explained, “Public health allows me to give others practical and useful knowledge to help them live healthier lives.”


This past summer, Twining traveled to Maryland for a mentored research experience where she volunteered at a local hospital working with patients with type 2 diabetes. The Peninsula Regional Hospital serves three counties that have double the national rate of the disease: approximately 15 percent of the population has diabetes, mostly type 2. Twining’s own family
"I found something I was so passionate about that it was hard not to think about it all the time."
history of the disease helped her relate to the patients as they worked to overcome their challenges. “Changing behaviors is the biggest challenge that people with diabetes face, and I still have to stress those concepts to myself on a daily basis in order to make healthy choices,” Twining said. “Health is a journey and not a means to an end.”

Twining now has many tools to help others live healthier lives thanks to field experiences such as this and her coursework. Even though she has found every course within the public health major to be rewarding and enjoyable, Women’s Health (Health 450) was particularly valuable. Through this class, she not only obtained her current job as a teaching assistant with Stephanie Fugal, M.S., but she also realized where she wants to concentrate her attention: on maternal and child health.

As a field experience for her Women’s Health class, Twining helped to organize the first-annual Birthing Conference sponsored by BYU Women’s Services and held in the Wilkinson Student Center last March. Twining participated in everything from writing supplemental materials about doulas and midwives to advertising and introducing speakers.

The purpose of the Birthing Conference was to educate women and show them how to be their own advocates during childbirth. “My belief is that the only wrong way to deliver a baby is to go into the experience uneducated. Women need to know what is going to take place, and they need to know their options. That way they can choose to labor and give birth in the way that best suits them,” said Twining. In September, Twining did some birthing of her own as she and her husband Brad welcomed their first baby.
To carry out her desire to improve the health of women and children, Twining plans to further her education by first becoming a Master of Public Health and then subsequently earning her nursing degree and becoming a certified nurse midwife. “A Public Health Nursing degree melds the prevention side of public health with the treatment side of nursing,” Fugal explains. Twining plans to put these degrees and her passion for humanitarianism to good use by developing programs for midwives in third-world countries.“Most times, a village’s sole health care provider is a midwife with lots of experience but little formal training and a great lack of supplies,” Twining said. “I would like to organize a nonprofit organization that deals with helping the advancement of these midwives in Africa.” With Twining’s training and compassionate heart, her dreams may well become reality.

by JAIME MAYO