The inaugural 40 Under 40 Public Health Catalyst Awards aim to highlight the rising leaders and innovators of the public health field. The Boston Congress of Public Health (BCPH) and the HPHR Journal selected a group of “leaders, entrepreneurs, researchers, scientists, activists”, and doctors that will inspire the next generations of public health workers to change the world. The individuals featured for this award have not only shown excellent work performance and an extensive academic history but have also brought innovative solutions to public health issues around the world.
The NYC Daily Post interviewed 40 under 40 award winners to learn about their career journeys leading up to their nominations.
Q1. What’s a piece of advice you’ve received that has impacted your career journey?
“Be a YES person!” This advice came from my co-worker, Kevin Holzinger, at the Battle Creek VA Medical Center as I was transitioning to work at the Department of Veteran Affairs Central Office.
Q2. Do you have a mentor you’d like to recognize? If so, what would you like to say to them?
Leslie King, Founder and President of Sacred Beginnings in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Leslie is a survivor of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. In 2005, Leslie utilized her experience, expertise, and inspiring example of a renewed lifestyle to open Sacred Beginnings, a safe heaven that offers hope, and healing to trafficking victims. I would say to Leslie, “thank you for helping me find my voice to be an advocate and leader in the fight against human trafficking.”
Q3. What advice would you give a young professional beginning their career in your field?
As an adjunct professor at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a social work trainee supervisor, and a National Association of Social Workers limited license supervisor; I encourage young professionals while they are in school, to start working or volunteering in their field of interest. Therefore, they know whether or not this is the career that is right for them.
Q4. If you could do one thing, leave one mark, on your profession, what would it be?
My professional journey has been inspired by my passions and life experience. I want to leave a legacy after I retire that makes me proud and feel successful.
Q5. Name a challenge you’ve faced and how it turned out.
A challenge I have faced is the ability to maintain a work-life balance. The fight to end human trafficking is relentless. Acknowledging my limits when I am feeling overwhelmed and being able to take on new projects have been key to my success. Knowing that I am not doing the work alone and that it takes teams and communities to collectively join forces to end human trafficking.
Q6. What is your ultimate career goal as you see it today?
Continue in my journey to raise awareness and advocate for victims of human trafficking.
Q7. What alternate role(s) would you be interested in pursuing?
Q8: What core values are important to succeeding in your professional field?
I inspire to listen to others, be culturally competent, and remain open to professional growth. I value authenticity and vulnerability to obtain the trust of others in the workplace. I hope to remain flexible and adaptable to change and to put the strategic mission of the Department of Veteran Affairs first.
Q9: Ten years ago, I thought I would be…
A substance abuse counselor.
Q10: Ten years from now, I want to be …
A known advocate and leader in the fight against human trafficking.
Q11: Please indicate your hometown, place of study, degree field(s), and an interesting fact about yourself.
Hometown: Grand Rapids, Michigan. Place of study: Florida State University, Bachelor and Master of Social Work Degrees. I have quite the green thumb and enjoy making miniature succulent gardens.