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.
What’s a piece of advice you’ve received that has impacted your career journey?
Don’t let anyone tell you that a communication professional has no place in public health. I have had that said to me several times. Yet, here I am. It is necessary to have a trained professional assist in putting together messaging and communication pieces for populations.
Do you have a mentor you’d like to recognize? If so, what would you like to say to them?
Fran Gerbig – Executive Director of the Prevention Action Alliance in Ohio. I met Fran when she was the head of Drug-Free Stark County and I was just a member of the organization. She saw something in me that started the conversation about going back for my MPH. I didn’t see it until I noticed that so many great services existed but the public lacked knowledge about them. I knew that I could help! Fran saw what I could offer and I am better for taking her advice to go back.
What advice would you give a young professional beginning their career in your field?
I would say that communication is an essential part of human existence. It just looks different for everyone and messaging in public health should be catered to all audiences. We cannot put out one form of messaging and expect every audience to adapt. We must adapt. I would say be flexible with your career path, learn new things, read everything, stay up to date on current affairs, and network.
If you could do one thing, leave one mark, on your profession, what would it be?
I would hope that I could make health communication and health communicators a vital part of any health-related agency. I would like to show leadership that is needed both internally and externally to make a difference.
Name a challenge you’ve faced and how it turned out.
I faced the challenge in my master’s program by getting my internship site (later employer) to buy into a comprehensive comms strategy for the agency. It eventually led to me being hired as the first communications person for the organization. No one really understood why it was necessary but showing data on the difference comms makes, truly changed the minds of leadership.
What is your ultimate career goal as you see it today?
I would love to lead the comms efforts for a major healthcare organization or agency.
What alternate role(s) would you be interested in pursuing?
I would love to do research on people’s perceptions of health advertising, comms pieces, social media posts, etc. for further impact. Audience feedback is key!
What core values are important to succeeding in your professional field?
Some core values that are important to succeeding in my professional field are knowledge, empathy, integrity, and advocacy.
Ten years ago, I thought I would be …
I thought I would be working in DC as a legislative assistant and working on policy/legislation for a member of Congress.
Ten years from now, I want to be …
I would like to be leading the communications efforts for a major organization or agency on a health issue that is impacting various populations.
Would you want to acknowledge any family/friends/partners (beyond mentors)? If so, who?
If it were not for my mother, Tina Cugini, I would not be the person I am today. She passed away in April of 2021 due to liver disease. She put everything she had into me and I am better for having had the best life teacher. I miss her dearly. My parents, Tony and Tina Cugini worked day and night to give me a better life. I also could not have made it through my master’s or early career without my wife Abby, my son Matteo, and my pup Winnie. They are my life!
Please indicate your hometown, place of study, degree field(s), and an interesting fact about yourself.
Canton, Ohio | the University of Mount Union for my BA in Communication Studies and Political Science | Kent State University for my MPH | I was a Capitol Hill intern for US Senator John Thune.
Interview prepared by Brianna Gray
Feature Image: Christopher L. Cugini