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?
My wife always emphasized the importance of science beyond the research realm. I think as scientists we get stuck on solving a material problem and forget about the long-lasting impact of the new knowledge we generate on populations. I think I picked up the viewpoint of standing for the issues I believe in and taking responsibility for my work from her.
Q2. Do you have a mentor you’d like to recognize? If so, what would you like to say to them?
I was lucky to have 2 mentors who both played unique roles in shaping me.
Mary Fox from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health: I met Mary Fox when I first started my public health trajectory. We worked together on environmental risk assessment and environmental public policies. This was my first interface with the field and not only did she mentor me patiently, but she also trusted me and encouraged me to punch above my weight and carve my own path.
Petros Koutrakis from the Harvard School of Public Health: it’s very rare to find a mentor with the ability to mentor you on both the professional and personal levels. Petros’ mentorship extended where he was able to guide me through my very critical years in my personal growth.
Q3. What advice would you give a young professional beginning their career in your field?
I would advise every young student to explore in their educational years. Take classes that are interesting rather than easy and be open to different opportunities that life might present.
If I can go back in time, I wouldn’t want to be scared to shift gears and change career paths, even when I feel it’s late. My advice is to follow your passion and what keeps fired up.
Q4. If you could do one thing, leave one mark, on your profession, what would it be?
I would love to carry out a unified regional effort to assess climate change’s health effects in the Middle East. From where I come from, I grew up witnessing many environmental issues firsthand. The challenge is to try to address these issues despite our limited resources, lack of political will, and very little data. But I strongly believe in the massive contribution that this effort will bring globally to facing the climate crisis.
Q5. Name a challenge you’ve faced and how it turned out.
I changed my career trajectory from clinical medicine to public health academia. It was scary, I wasn’t sure if I’ll succeed. I applied for a Ph.D. after my master’s and only a year after getting in, I started to realize that this is exactly what I always wanted to do.
Q6. What is your ultimate career goal as you see it today?
My ultimate goal is to shift our understanding of climate change as we face it. I hope that I can define or redefine how nature interacts with humanity. I am also keen on tackling issues of social justice related to the climate crisis.
In my journey, I uncovered serious public health injustices that migrant workers are facing. These health gaps are set to be widened by climate change and I will dedicate the rest of my career to shedding the light on this health inequality and elevating the voices of those impacted with meaningful public health science.
Q7. What alternate role(s) would you be interested in pursuing?
I’d love to be a sports pundit one day.
Q8: What core values are important to succeeding in your professional field?
First is honesty. Being honest with self and others is the best way to build trust. I may be too honest for my own good sometimes, but I never regretted it. The second is kindness. When working with many professors, students, colleagues, and staff, we have to be kind and nice to one another. It simply spreads happiness in the workplace. And finally, hard work. Always put in the effort and put in the hours. For me, it’s always better to be overprepared for events and meetings.
Q9: Ten years ago, I thought I would be…
Q10: Ten years from now, I want to be …
Q11: Would you want to acknowledge any family/friends/partners (beyond mentors)? If so, who?
My wife Shaikhah (Shay) Alshuaib, thank you for your endless love, support, and encouragement.
Q12: Please indicate your hometown, place of study, degree field(s), and an interesting fact about yourself.
Hometown: Qurtoba, Kuwait City, Kuwait.
Place of study: MD (from University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK) – MPH (from Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, US) – Ph.D. (from Harvard University, Boston, MA, US)
Interesting fact: I can’t miss an Arsenal game