In our Alumni Career Spotlight series, you will meet some of our alumni and learn about the important work they are doing to create a healthier nation and world.
Employer: Indiana University Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center
Current position: Director of Operations, Office of Community Outreach and Engagement
Location: Fishers, IN
Degree(s): Master of Health Administration (2003); Master of Public Health (2003); Bachelor of Science (Health Education, 1997)
Why did you choose your major/program?
I chose a major that would allow me to optimally help people based on my gifts, talents, and abilities. Health education and public health allow me to exercise my ability to teach, train, coach, create, inspire, and build people.
While completing an internship during my undergraduate studies, I realized that sound business skills were needed to oversee and manage public health programs so I decided to pursue a health administration degree. I wanted to be able to account for, forecast, market and strategically utilize the resources that are necessary for supporting public health programming and associated efforts.
Currently, I am working on a Ph.D. to explore how help-seeking behaviors in disparate populations can be better promoted by the appropriate messengers.
Do you have any research interests?
I am interested in researching help-seeking behaviors for public health crisis of violence. Violence has been the fifth-leading cause of death for African Americans in Indiana and is a top leading cause of death for African Americans nationally. I would like to develop an instrument for assessing the meaning of, influencers of the meaning of, and the optimal point for promoting help-seeking for violence in young adult African American males (18-25 years of age).
I would like to know what help looks like and who would be the most appropriate persons to serve as the ‘helper’ for this phenomena, which can lead to a more formal approach to tackling this ever-growing issue.
Also, I am interested in researching the role of faith-based institutions in preventing and intervening in violence at home (partner abuse, child abuse, sibling abuse, and sexual abuse) through promoting healthy relationships.
Briefly describe your career path.
My career path started at the IU Bowen Research Center as a research assistant. Afterwards, I became an adolescent health educator for the Marion County Public Health Department. Then I served for 20 years in multiple capacities at the Indiana Minority Health Coalition (IMHC). At IMHC, I started as a project coordinator, then transitioned into regional technical assistance coordinator to research director to vice president of research to vice president of research and training to finally vice president of planning and program development.
Upon the completion of my 20th year, I was recruited by the Indiana University Simon and Bren Comprehensive Cancer Center to serve in my current role as director of operations. Ultimately, I would like to serve in a leadership role that influences policies, trains the emerging generation of health professionals, and leaves a legacy of hope to benefit the nations of the world.
Describe what an average day for you might be like.
On an average day, I am participating in a lot of meetings. Most of which is building partnerships with community-based organizations interested in working with the center to reduce the cancer burden in Indiana. Also, I am meeting with faculty, researchers, and staff to explore and plan opportunities to get more engaged with community to inform the center’s research, programs and services.
Additionally, I coalesce my office team to work together to strategize about working with community and cancer center faculty and researchers to create mutually beneficial directional communication that strengthens cancer burden reduction. Furthermore, I work with the diversity, inclusion and equity leader of the center to infuse this work in community and among cancer center faculty, researchers, and staff. Lastly, I work to tell our story through evaluation and reporting.
What advice would you give your college self about pursuing your current career path or industry?
My advice would be to enhance your leadership by getting more involved in committees, councils, boards, and external groups with the intention of becoming a leader. This would be distinctive and a great need. It would also allow you to exercise the ability to work in groups, build consensus, strategize, and understand systems and how they work in the community and state.
What is a lesson learned at FSPH that you have been able to apply to your career?
The most important thing that I learned is the value of team and being flexible. As a public health professional, most of the work that you are engaged in involves consensus building and cooperation for performing the work. Also, the landscape and context changes and warrants the professional to be flexible. Both of which I consistently apply in my career.
What is the most significant thing that’s happened to you since graduating?
I adopted my first child. I bought my first home. I transitioned from a position after vesting in 20 years of service. I have led the following groups: 1) establishing a multi-disciplinary cultural competency training standards, 2) multi-disciplinary action research in Allen, Lake and Marion Counties focused on disproportionality, 3) a guide for equity considerations, and 4) recommendations for developing an equity office in an institution adopted by the commission in improving the status of children, and 5) presenting at national and international conferences promoting community-based participatory research.
What’s next for you?
I am currently working on a Ph.D. Also, I am looking into getting involved in social justice issues and its intersection with public health.
What is your favorite IUPUI/FSPH memory?
My favorite memory of FSPH is when I attempted to switch my major from health administration to public health. Elise Papke told me that I was too far into the MHA program to just switch, so she said consider a dual degree. I had not considered it, but it was best advice that I received that enriched my experience in the program.