I am motivated by the Golden Rule in every facet of my life. I find joy in using my personal and intellectual strengths for the greater good. My idea of the greater good includes creating a world in which people are provided information and resources that are relevant to their public health interests, tools allowing people to build agency in leading their lives as they desire. I chose a career in public health given the ethos on which the profession is built — serving as the professional avenue through which I can best use my passion as a catalyst to effect positive change in the world.
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- Organizing projects and people to get things done and focus on getting results in the most efficient way possible.
- Grounding decision-making in logic, experience and facts; communicating in a straightforward and decisive manner.
- Extracting value from data and contextualizing its importance via storytelling.
Interactions with Others
- Generally enjoy interacting with people, especially around tasks, games and relationship building activities.
- Take relationship roles seriously and strive to fulfill them responsibly; people seldom have to wonder where I stand on any particular subject matter
- To hear from people with whom I have worked over the years, consider reading my LinkedIn recommendations.
Professional Development Focus
While drawing conclusions based on logic and facts is important to the advancement of public health or any profession for that matter, allowing additional room for the human experience in developing solutions is critical to partnership sustainability and improving public health and medical outcomes.
Continuing to elevate the importance of hearing beneath the words as a core competency is paramount. It is a necessary principle in ascertaining and responding to partners’ needs — those that are not overtly communicated yet founded on partners’ values system.
Current Professional Role
I currently serve as the Director of the Geographic Health Equity Alliance which is a national network within Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America or CADCA — a Washington D.C. (Northern Virginia) based globally focused non-profit. As Director, I oversee the operational and administrative management of advancing public health interventions that address geographically based health disparities. Aside from leading our own public health interventions, my team and I plan, develop, and implement trainings and technical assistance sessions — in collaboration with other nationally focused entities and individual subject matter experts. Our goal entails improving the quality and performance of public health interventions executed by state-based public health professionals and local coalitions among other partners.
In leading certain public health interventions from CADCA’s headquarters in Northern Virginia, my team and I are:
- Leveraging nationally successful public health media campaigns such as the Tips from Former Smokers®, to localize messaging in a culturally competent manner to drive health behavior change.
- Establishing and maintaining partnerships with non-traditional partners to provide face-to-face public health services, such as tobacco cessation services, in areas with entrenched health inequities, documented as having low health literacy, and geographical regions deemed healthcare professional shortage areas.
- Creating safe spaces for partners to discuss concerns regarding the waning importance of certain public health interventions (e.g. entrenched geographically specific tobacco use) due to the acute manifestation of others (e.g. fatal opioid misuse).
- Developing technical assistance, trainings, and creating opportunities for peer-to-peer learning to support our partners’ goals of framing public health problems in a way that resonates with potential partners’ values and social responsibility agendas.
In advancing existing public health interventions and augmenting ongoing local coalition efforts, my team I structure our provision of training and technical assistance to support:
- Enhancement of public health competencies and skills to educate and communicate support for evidence-based practices and emerging strategies
- Convening public health partners — public and private — and promote implementation of health systems interventions to drive geographically specific interventions
- Building support for public health services, including practicing strategies to improve relationships between communities at large and public health, healthcare and businesses who serve them.
I currently serve on the newly formed Rural America Tobacco Control Steering Committee. Purposed with providing feedback on the most up-to-date evidence, interventions and emerging technology regarding the heavy burden of tobacco sue in rural America, the committee is a collaboration between the National Network of Public Health Institutes and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Office of Smoking and Health. The end goal is to develop a report illustrating innovative interventions and evidence-based policies as well as highlight gaps in our current knowledge base.
To take a look at some of my work to date click here.
Master of Business Administration (MBA) — Terry College of Business, University of Georgia
Master of Public Health (MPH) — Ryals School of Public Health, University of Alabama at Birmingham
Bachelor of Science (Biology) — Undergraduate Studies, Life University
I chose to earn a college degree in biology for two main reasons, my interests in the United States Interstate System and the internal workings of the human body. Since my adolescence, I have been fascinated with interstate highways. I viewed them as the path one would literally take to reach the next phase of their lives. To feed this interest of mine, my parents ensured I had the most recent editions of Rand McNally road maps — much like the one shown here. Before the advent of Google Earth, Google Maps or the iPhone Maps app even, I would study the hard copies of maps for hours, turning page after page following how interstate highways — their spur routes and beltways — traversed the nation.
Once old enough to drive and to a greater extent after I started college, I would at times just take off on solo road trips following along in my Rand McNally atlas matching the real-life scenery with the lines and icons on the map. As I got older, my interests in the interstate system morphed into a hobby of snapping pictures of destination signs and other roadway signage.
Regarding my interests in the workings of the human body, my parents purchased my first computer — a Packard Bell — in the mid-1990s. It weighed about 100 pounds, so heavy it caused my desk to sag. My computer loudly connected to the Internet via dial-up services offered by AOL, offering browsing speeds considered abhorrently glacial by today’s standards. I would surf the fledgling Internet for content highlighting the inner workings of the human body after exhausting the materials on the Encyclopedia Britannica CD that came with my computer.
There is a connection to my interests in the Interstate Highway System and the human organs systems. Both of them serve as essential networks connecting very important yet distinct entities to create life as we know it. The Interstate Highway System connects us to our employers, academic institutions as well as friends and relatives among other things; all of which create the human experience. Our internal organs systems are connected in a manner that allows for homeostasis, defense against most biological agents, the privilege of free will, and psychosomatically using tools to conquer the most seemingly insurmountable of obstacles; all of which create the human experience as well. Studying biology not only facilitated my examining and better understanding the natural world, yet served as a springboard to better understand the social systems governing how the physical ones interact.
By the time I was ready for graduate school, I veered from the route most biology majors take – attending medical school or becoming a teacher. I did not have the appetite for another decade or so of preparation to become a medical doctor. Working in a classroom setting was equally unappealing. Becoming a public health professional has proven to be a better fit for me. The Ryals School of Public Health exposed me to the vastness of a nearly invisible profession which shoulders a great deal of the responsibility in providing the standard of living and way of life we enjoy as citizens of a developed, first-world nation.
Twenty-five of the 30 years of increased life expectancy occurring in the Twentieth Century were attributed to advancements in public health infrastructure. Examples of such advancement includes controlling infectious disease, providing more and safer foods and improving sanitation conditions among other breakthroughs. As I progressed through the MPH curriculum, being a part of a movement that does so much for so many people deeply resonated with me. I knew my career had to focus on some aspect of public health.
I pursued an MBA to improve my skill sets in strategic management, project management and cross-sectoral partnership development. Three years into my public health career, I noticed a dearth of opportunities within the profession — at least the environment in which I worked — to hone effective administrative and operational practices in managing and executing public health interventions. More pointedly, Terry’s MBA Program provided a direct and structured opportunity to enhance my skills in team building, expanding my personal and professional networks to interact with individuals of entirely different motivations, interests and career trajectories, as well as using storytelling to articulate the importance of robust public health interventions from an economic development perspective. Lastly, obtaining an MBA increased my earning potential and better equipped me to take on leadership roles.
Service Learning Projects
As much as my educational path provided me with valuable skills I continue to use to this day, volunteerism play a major role in shaping the public health professional I have become. While a graduate student at UAB, I participated in multiple service learning projects. Some of them involved building playgrounds, cleaning up parks, and participating in National Public Health Week activities, others pertained to building homes. One of my favorite activities was volunteering for Habitat for Humanity projects. As a resource-starved graduate student wanting to give back to the community, service learning projects offered a chance to kill at least two birds with one stone.
First, I was able to offer services that added value to someone’s else’s life in a very meaningful and immediate way. Habitat for Humanity did so through building homes for families. The organization offers a very direct and transparent way to volunteer your time and energy for the greater good. Secondly, service learning projects provided yet another opportunity to act on my values and beliefs in advancing the greater good, improve my ability to handle ambiguous situations with unfamiliar people, and connect with and learn from others who may not have the same exact career pursuits, among other takeaways.
I lived in Birmingham during the 2011 Tornado Super Outbreak. I was among those Alabamians spared the wrath of the EF4 tornado that devastated neighborhoods across town from mine. I felt it was my responsibility to help with the clean-up efforts. I share this not to elicit pats on the back. I mention the outbreak recovery efforts because I distinctly remember the richness of seeing people working together for the greater good in such a humane way. Naturally, I want to experience that richness in a way that was productive and helpful. Service learning projects devoted to recovery efforts at that time provided me that conduit.
Larry (my spouse) and I have pledged to renew our participation in service learning projects; he recently arranged one for his team in Mexico City which was a hit.
First Pivotal Position
I think we all have had a job that served as a turning point of sorts. This job may have changed the way we interacted with people outside our relatives and close friends, how we viewed the value of money or an honest day’s work, or it may have taught us something about our own work ethic or career interests that remained unclear beforehand. My most pivotal role thus far, the one that transitioned me from having a “job” to pursuing a “career” was that of barista and Shift Supervisor at Starbucks Coffee.
The culture of Starbucks, as I would imagine of countless other employers, was the first experience bringing into focus the idea of doing more within an employment setting other than churning out widgets or just doing something to pay the bills. Of all the jobs I had prior to Starbucks, it was the first employer to ever to put so much emphasis on fostering an inclusive, healthy, or otherwise positively deliberate organizational culture. One’s place of employment, as I learned working for Starbucks, can be an avenue through which you add value to other people’s lives in a subtle yet monumental way. It was not only a source of income and livelihood, it was an environment in which you could channel your passions synergistically with those of your colleagues to effect change on a level that transcends you individually. I knew after leaving Starbucks I wanted my next source of income to be derived from doing something about which I was passionate.
Backing up a bit, my very first form of employment was working a part-time summer job at Burger King in Madison, Alabama. I was visiting my sister for the summer and decided to earn a few dollars during my excursion from the sticks of Bullock County. I am unsure if flipping burgers is a de facto American adolescent’s rite of passage, akin to getting your driver’s license or attending junior prom. What I can remember knowing for sure at the time was never ever wanting to do such a job on a long-term basis for any reason. It is hard and thankless work, with little pay, and an almost uninterrupted source of undeserved societal condescension.
Starting at Atlanta’s Lenox Mall Kiosk and eventually ending in a Birmingham store in Shelby County, I worked at Starbucks for four years while enrolled as a full-time student in college and part of graduate school. The Seattle-based company offered stable, near full-time hours, health insurance, and occasional support from the Cup Fund.
Aside from crafting lattes, blending frappuccinos, and steeping globally sourced coffee in French presses for customer tastings, I received practical life lessons such as learning from diverse customs and norms of my fellow partners, building and sustaining team cohesion, identifying and executing basic management skills, adopting aspects of conflict resolution and acquiring foundational skills in relationship building through interactions with routine customers from all walks of life.
Most of my tenure with Starbucks was during the Great Recession. Staying abreast to the economy and political conversations at the time was not a priority of mine. Passing final exams, increasing the number of leg presses I could power through – with perfect form, and ensuring my car was always clean took precedence in those days. Admittedly, I was unaware of Starbucks grave economic prospects during this period of financial angst and massive foreclosures.
It could have been because my managers were knowledgeable of the company’s shaky economic footing yet knew how to keep the team motivated and focused in spite of the turmoil. I simply felt as if Howard Schultz was in the store with me and my fellow partners; not micromanaging, silently judging, or otherwise hovering; yet reassuring us. Physically he was not; his passion and leadership skills permeated the place. Not once was I made to feel my job was in jeopardy or that I should be grateful that it was not eliminated. Schultz’s tone and that of my store managers were more of perseverance and humility. Focusing on having fun while crafting the best beverages as well as creating the third place so many customers appreciated and deserved remained top priorities. The leadership within the stores I worked, for the most part, believed in the company’s values and made concerted efforts to ensure we all benefited from and worked within the parameters of them.
It was a physically demanding job on most days yet lessons I learned during my time with Starbucks continue to guide me through personal and professional situations I encounter to this day.
To learn about my personal journey click here.