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?
During my time as an undergrad at The University of Chicago, often times advice I heard repetitively was along my academic and professional journey enjoy the quest of learning “the life of the mind.”
Throughout my undergraduate and formative years, I never quite understood the imperativeness of this advice. However, as I grew older in my career and throughout my graduate school endeavors, I learned the vitality of having a sincere commitment to intellectual and philosophical inquiry, as well as acquiring multi-disciplinary learning across academic disciplines in order to enrich my knowledge throughout my career journey.
Q2: Do you have a mentor you’d like to recognize? If so, what would you like to say to them?
Throughout my life and professional journey, I have had many mentors and role models who have guided me and inspired me throughout my path. I would be remiss if I did not thank all of my past mentors, teachers, and role models. However, I do have three mentors I would like to recognize. My fifth-grade teacher Mrs. Potthast, my biochemistry professor Dr. Makinen, and my undergraduate research mentor Dr. Dagogo-Jack.
Since the 5th grade, Mrs. Potthast inspired and motivated me as a young woman. She instilled in me optimism, hard work, the joy of education, and the desire to build upon my strengths in my formative years unto now. I often utilize her pearls of inspiration daily.
During my undergraduate years, Dr. Makinen’s biochemistry class allowed me to enjoy the beauty of perseverance and the joy of scientific rigor and inquiry. His class and his strong desire to educate and teach us the fundamental important concepts of biochemistry allowed me to learn how to study effectively and work hard in the classroom, which allowed my knowledge to grow and be enriched throughout my undergraduate years and onwards.
Last, but not least, Dr. Dagogo-Jack’s research mentorship in diabetes and continued professional mentorship throughout my journey instilled with me my love for research on chronic disease and the importance of looking at the scientific inquiry with an open mind and quest to learn more in order to provide sustainable solutions through disseminated research findings. I am thankful for the above (3) mentors and all past mentors, teachers, and role models throughout my journey.
Q3: What advice would you give a young professional beginning their career in your field?
Advice that I would give a young professional is to be patient, be humble, and embrace the beauty of failures. The field of public health is constantly changing and there are continued sustained challenges within our field that have been sustained for decades. Thus, for young professionals in the public health field, it is important to be patient along their educational journey and professional paths.
Patience is key within our field due to the constantly changing landscape within public health and with the global imperativeness of public health. It is important to be patient as one starts their career as change is imminent and our field is very dynamic. Secondly, no matter accolades, strengths, and accomplishments, it is important for young professionals to stay humble and embody humility. This is key in order to progress forward and provide sustained impact to communities across the globe within the public health sector. Lastly, embrace failures, often times the journey, both educational and occupational, is not linear. There are often times curves, hurdles, and barriers in one’s quest in education, career, and personal life. Failures allow us as people to grow stronger. See failing and misdirections as opportunities for growth, not as a measure of one’s future trajectory or self-worth. When we as people embrace failures, keep the faith, and realize some things are out of our control, it is evident that success will bloom and grow from our past failures. I wish all young professionals the best as they begin their career journey in public health.
Q4: If you could do one thing, leave one mark, on your profession, what would it be?
There are many areas of public health that I aspire to improve within my career and profession. If I could pick one area I hope to leave a mark on it would be to improve health outcomes and create sustainable, implemented solutions that are sustained to improve health equity for under-served and vulnerable populations, both domestically and globally.
Growing up in a rural community, being born to parents of immigrants, and having faced personal health inequities throughout my lifetime, it is evident that inequities have been ever-present for many populations both domestically and globally. Thus, I am motivated and aspire each day to make sustainable solutions that can provide sincere, effective, and sustained change for populations in order to make improved strides within the scope of health equity throughout the country and the globe.
Q5: Name a challenge you’ve faced and how it turned out.
Throughout my graduate school training, while finishing my MPH and MBA, there were certain challenges due to learning curriculum in two different disciplines simultaneously at the same time. Oftentimes, I was challenged educationally to understand not just the importance of population health, health equity, and healthcare prevention, but also, to see the framework of healthcare as an industry and business.
During my dual-degree graduate school educational years, there were challenges that came when studying these two disciplines at the same time in addition to being able to juggle student leadership positions, community service engagement, and working part-time to provide for my graduate school education. However, during this challenge, I was able to persevere through hurdles and stay inspired throughout the curriculum and my educational journey. When reflecting back on this time in graduate school, I am so thankful for my teachers, mentors, professors, and friends at Washington University in St. Louis who sustained my ambition to pursue my dual degree.
I am also so grateful for being able to accomplish my MPH, and MBA simultaneously as it has allowed me to see public health and business administration from a very comprehensive lens and interdisciplinary framework which is imperative in order to provide improved solutions and strategies for bolstering public health during this era.
Q6: What is your ultimate career goal as you see it today?
My ultimate career goal is to continue to grow, acquire knowledge, expand my network, and make a difference within the public health sector. I love the field of public health and I truly do see public health as a professional and personal calling. When it comes to my career goals, I am humble and I enjoy learning from others further along the career path than me. Thus, my future goals are to be able to sustain my career humility while making a positive impact and difference within public health, health equity, and closing gaps in healthcare disparities for vulnerable populations from which I came from.
Q7: What alternate role(s) would you be interested in pursuing?
As I continue to grow my career and expand my networks, I would be interested in pursuing healthcare leadership opportunities within hospital organizations. As a minority woman, there is still too little representation of women and under-represented minorities within healthcare administrative leadership positions at the c-suite level for healthcare organizations across the country. Thus, given the imminent challenges and pressing issues within the current landscape of healthcare, it is important to amplify diversity within c-suite leadership positions and within healthcare administration for hospital organizations. In the future, I would love an opportunity to pursue such role(s) given an opportunity to make a difference and provide a unique multi-disciplinary leadership voice, from a public health and MBA perspective.
Q8: What core values are important to succeeding in your professional field?
To me, within the public health professional field, core values for success are – patience, humility, cultural competency, innovation, and passion. With the dynamic challenges and constant need for improved solutions in public health, it is imperative to have patience and to also be innovative in developing new strategies and goals to improve our field and the health outcomes for all populations around the globe. In addition to the above, public health impacts all regions of the globe, various countries, cities, and geographic regions face omnipresent challenges and issues within public health, given the global aspect of public health it is imperative to have cultural competency and be able to learn from and embrace other cultures.
Q9: Ten years ago, I thought I would be…
Ten years ago, I thought I would have a career as a physician. As I began to understand some of the workplace training environments for physicians, I realized that public health is truly my calling. I am thankful for my time at the NIH as it is through this experience, I saw the myriad of career options in healthcare. It was this time at the NIH where I began to enjoy health policy, population health, and the aspect of preventative public health which are imperative to medicine. I am so thankful for pursuing public health as it truly is my calling and it allows me to examine healthcare issues from a big picture of the population, not solely at the individual level. I also am thankful for this field as there are so many changes that need to happen at the systemic, systematic, and policy levels to make true advancements in medicine, the affordability of clinical services, and the delivery of healthcare for all populations to ensure it is truly a right for everyone and not merely a privilege.
Q10: Ten years from now, I want to be …
Ten years from now, I want to be making sustained positive differences in ensuring health equity for all domestically and in other global nations. Ten years from now, I hope I am continuing to grow, acquire knowledge, expand my network, and make a positive difference within the public health sector. I love the field of public health and I truly do see public health as a professional and personal calling. Thus, I hope ten years from now, I am sustaining humility within my career while making a positive impact and difference within public health, health equity, and closing gaps in healthcare disparities for vulnerable populations which I represent.
Q11: Would you want to acknowledge any family/friends/partners (beyond mentors)? If so, who?
It truly takes a village to raise a child. I am so thankful for my community which has fostered positivity, safe spaces, and healthy environments for me to learn, grow, make mistakes, acquire new skills, and continue to embrace my professional passion within the public health field. I would like to acknowledge my parents for their many sacrifices and unconditional love. It is from their seeds of fostering a loving and supportive home coupled with faith that I was able to bloom into the professional that I am today. I would also like to acknowledge my older brother for his mentorship and for being a positive role model from my childhood formative years until now.
My lifelong friend, fiancé, and soon-to-be forever spouse partner thank you for your many sacrifices, unconditional love, sustained faith, and prayers, and for always believing in us– I am so thankful for your presence in my life always. I would like to acknowledge my furry friend– my dog, for always being a woman’s best friend and staying up during long nights in my educational and work journey.
Lastly, I would love to thank my mentors, friends, and teachers, who have always instilled with me aspiration, a joy of learning, and constant support throughout my path and journey. It is truly the above community that I owe thanks for allowing my career development to blossom.
Q12: Please indicate your hometown, place of study, degree field(s), and an interesting fact about yourself.
As a daughter of immigrants from Nigeria and Germany, Miss Luyi Adesanya is from Illinois. Having completed her undergraduate degree at The University of Chicago, she has worked at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) prior to completing her graduate school training at Washington University in St. Louis. She is a leader in the field and is dedicated to improving health outcomes for marginalized communities under-represented minority communities, both domestically and abroad.
An interesting fact about myself is that I am an avid soccer player (English Premier League) fan #GoChelseaFC.