LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Dr. Barbara Ferrer has become the face and voice of Los Angeles County’s fight against COVID-19.
In her role as director of public health, Ferrer has held a steady stream of public briefings where she explains in detail where the county is in that battle and what needs to happen to move forward.
But her career as a champion for public health initiatives has been in the works for decades.
“I’m from Puerto Rico, I was born and raised there,” she said. “I came to the states to go to college.”
Ferrer graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a bachelor’s degree in community studies.
Fluent in Spanish, Ferrer said she started her career as a community organizer.
“I’m passionate about justice issues,” she said.
And though she will not be out in the streets protesting anytime soon, she said she appreciates the work being done to make communities more just and equitable.
“There’s so many different ways that people can join the movement for justice,” she said.
Ferrer then earned a master’s degree in education from the University of Massachusetts. But, she said, there was a time during her time at the university that she considered being a physician.
“I had decided I did want to go be a physician, and I had to go back to school,” she said.
Ferrer, who had a small child at the time, went back and had to take organic chemistry, physics, advanced biology and calculus — classes she had, up to that point, not had to take.
“I was like bemoaning how horrible it was taking all of these courses,” she said.
And that was when a friend of hers told her to look into public health.
“I did not even know there was a field called public health at the time, and he said, ‘You know, I think you might be really interested in that,'” she said.
Ferrer then went on to earn a master’s degree in public health from Boston College and a Ph.D. in social welfare from Brandeis.
As for her family, Ferrer is married and has two children and two grandchildren.
“My son is a physician, actually works in a federally qualified health center in Albuquerque,” she said. “My daughter does communications work in Boston.
“I love my children, I love my grandchildren like everyone else.”