Listen to other people, you know, ask other people what they see in you and what they think you might be able to bring to the field. Or you might think you’re going one way, and someone sees something else in this kind of light.
Welcome to PH SPOTlight, a community for you to build your public health career with. Join Us Weekly right here. And I’ll be here too, your host Sujani Siva from PH SPOT.
Hi Patrice. And welcome to the PH SPOT podcast. Thank you for joining us and for you know, just wanting to share your journey with our listeners.
Thanks for having me.
Wonderful. You know, you were telling me you’re a bit of an introvert and I was gonna say I would have never guessed that just based on the way you just said hello, when we started our zoom call. So that took me by surprise, because you seem like a very friendly, you know, outgoing person just based on the first couple of minutes.
Yeah, I am. First of all, you do what you have to do.
To relate to people and talk. And I do much better one on one and when I’m in my element, but I am at heart, an introvert and yeah, so this this is really outside my comfort zone trying to speak to people, especially people I don’t know.
Yeah, yeah, no, it’s often quite reflective. And I love when my guests kind of at the end go, Okay, that was really nice to kind of walk down memory lane and then reflect. So I think as much as it’s going to be helpful to our listeners, I hope it it also becomes kind of like energizing conversation for you to see how far you come in your career journey.
Yeah, there were lots of twists and turns so.
Awesome, so, you know, I always like to ask my guests how they discovered the field of public health. And when was that decision made to want to pursue a career in that kind of area, and you know, based on your background, you started off your education, and you’re kind of like, refer to that as the start of your career in nursing. And so where did that kind of interest to pursue nursing come from? And did you always know about this field of public health as this like broader area of work? Or was that something that you discovered along the way, so maybe you could take us, you know, even before you started your education, and nursing to really help us understand where this like interest for the field of health came from.
Sure, yeah. It actually, my career and just general health care started 10 years before being a nurse. So back when I was in college, the first time around, I went to school, originally for psychology. And I had a friend who was doing her internship as a social worker community health center. So at the time, I didn’t have a job. So I started to work there as a patient advocate. It was a community health center that really focused on reproductive health and sexual health. And at the time, I wasn’t thinking anything about public health, I just know that I enjoyed working there. And working with the underserved and addressing health disparities, I didn’t even have that language at the time. So you know, I moved from college the first time around back to Cleveland, and start working in another health center, being a patient advocate. And then from there, I go, to work as a medical assistant office reception for Planned Parenthood, and become the manager there. So that is really where I started to kind of make that shift from direct care to more of the administrative and I missed that direct care. And the next progression seem to be me becoming a nurse. So that’s how that happened. But again, this is like a 10 year progression. So the patient advocacy stuff last for some years, and then I go on learn every bit of working in a community health center, and just being in that community. And then, you know, go to the administrative part of me, the manager is like, next role, let’s be an RN. So I originally went to be an RN, because I thought I wanted to be in women’s health, considering what I have been doing. And I realized that hm, I don’t really want to do that. So I go, and once I graduate, I go to work and emergency nursing. But while you know, we had the study group for nursing, and we’re studying for the NCLEX, and we had a facilitator, and the facilitator is asking questions. And I’m embarrassed to say that he was the one who actually pointed out to me because of the questions he was asking. He said, I can tell you have worked in public health. And that was like thinking thing. I never really put that together until that time.
Is that because you were taking what you are learning on the clinical side and you’re able to kind of see the bigger picture? Is that what he kind of picked up?
Yeah, yeah, exactly. Exactly. And also, it just, it wasn’t something that was at my forefront. I just knew I liked what I did. And working in the community and working with particular populations, they never said, Oh, I love public health.
So here we are, you know, this nurse says, this facilitator says, I can tell you a public health experience, but only common. I have public health experience. So after I graduated from an RN, I go to hospital, which is completely different settings from the community centers. And that was actually when I recognized I love public health, I love working in the community. But that experience, I would never trade for anything working in emergency nursing, because that exposed me and taught me so much you know about people. And again, just kind of reiterating those helps charities and those underserved and how people here in the US use the emergency department as their primary health care and like this system is broken. And that’s when I decide, okay, how much you love public health, let’s go and get your master’s in public health. So that’s how that happened.
So you worked as a registered nurse at the hospital for about six years, right? So during that time, are you like constantly thinking about, Okay, I don’t think I’m going to be sticking around in the clinical role for too many years, like, are you having those conversations in your head? And then that’s when that decision to pursue your masters came about?
Yeah, I think it was probably about a year or two, when I was working as RNs. And yeah, it was frustrating. Having that more established connection with community and being able to provide wraparound services and have that connection. And to go to the hospital setting where it’s really about, let’s treat what’s in front of you, and move on.
Especially in emergency care, right? You don’t necessarily see that people, again, to follow up on their care.
Correct. And the people that were coming in were the people who really needed that. So it was just so it was eye opening, it was frustrating. And I say yeah, I can’t continue to do it, at least not in this manner for much longer. And I even I consider okay, well, let’s go to nurse practitioner school and actually did a semester with that. And just knew that that wasn’t, it wasn’t for me, if I wanted to move the needle on if I wanted to work on those things that were important to me and try to make a difference that I had to approach it from a different way. And that’s when I went to get my master’s in public health.
So in year two, you- you decide to go to get your Master’s of Public Health. And that goes on till about 2014. And then 2015 is when you leave that nursing role, or I guess the clinical role in I guess you move into research at that point. But you know, when you’re in school, presumably you’re working in your nursing role, while in school. Were you even more frustrated because you weren’t able to, like, push anything that you were learning on? Like, in your workplace?
Yes, I’m taking all these wonderful classes. And, you know, I went to school full time I went, I worked full time. And I’m taking all these wonderful classes, and when I put them into action, and just couldn’t be, you know, it’s just the system is just not set up for that. And then I do for my program, I had to do both a capstone internship. So I do my internship at a local health department, which is a smaller one here. You know, I’m surrounded by all these counties here. So I did the neighboring county. And I got to work with the deputy health commissioner at that time, was actually the commissioner. But that was when I realized, yeah, I gotta make that switch. So that was in 2014, where I am doing my internship and finishing up my degree, and I decided to make the switch. And that switch is not so easy.
Why is that?
It’s because I have built this clinical career for the past 10-15 years. And that was where the majority of my experience was I had had that management experience. But when people see that RN after your name, you kind of get pigeonholed. And it took me almost about a year to actually find a job that was not clinical. I knew that when I did that internship, that I really enjoyed the programming aspect, I got to do everything, I got to work with environmental health, I got to work on the administrative side, I got to do everything. And I really enjoyed working with the programs. So I was intentionally applying to different health departments and other community health centers, but really focusing on the programming aspects. And just could not break in. I mean, I was applying for jobs that even I knew were very entry level, but I was willing to do it, or, you know, I was just willing to do it, because I wanted to make that bit of a difference. And so I decided, okay, let me try at our public hospital, let me try working in research. I quickly realized that was not for me.
So that just, it wasn’t for me. Nothing wrong with researches, absolutely. And hats off to those people. But it just wasn’t for me. And I had this opportunity to go and work at the health department. And this is another one, a neighboring health department here, an urban area. And that was when I felt like I’ve arrived.
For, you know, any of our listeners who are currently in like a clinical role, and they’re kind of feeling the same frustrations you had a number of years ago, what some advice or words of encouragement there anything that you can provide to them. Because you know, they’re feeling these frustrations, not being able to do anything to change this like massive system. Because I can imagine like the decision to go back to school to change the path you’re on in your career, knowing that you still have a number of decades ahead of you, even though you’ve put in like a decade of, you know, work into this, sometimes it can- it can feel like, ah it- it doesn’t make sense for me to switch things up right now. I don’t know if I should go back to school. Like there’s just like so many things that are in the way, how did you push yourself to take that first step to say, Okay, this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to put that application and I’m gonna go to school, I’m gonna take action and figure out what what it is that’s going to bring me joy. And maybe that involves like switching up a career, taking a role that’s going to be a bit more junior than what I thought my next progression would be like, and yeah, all of the conversations that you’re having in your head.
Yeah, you just said what it was, it was important to me to find my joy.
If that is my ultimate goal, then I just, I have to get there. Regardless. So that was what my driving force was, I knew that it was very, very frustrating to work in the system. And this is just healthcare in general, this is not specifically hospital system based. Just, this is the nature of health care in our country. I mean, if I’m going to make a difference, I have to make that switch. And I just had to be persistent, I should probably say I’m also pretty mission driven. That was the other part of me that I needed to work for places and where I really believed in their mission, and their vision. So that kind of I don’t want to say it narrowed it down, but it definitely, you know, impacted where I was applying. So it was really about finding my joy. And I think people just have to find, you know, what is driving them and keep on going until you find what what makes you happy and you’re going to hit some walls, you’re going to have those challenges. And you just have to decide, is it important to overcome these challenges? Or is it okay to just maintain the status quo? And either decision is okay, it’s just, you know, you have to make that decision for yourself.
What sort of, you know, resources, tools, just anything that helped you get that clarity? Was it you know, talking to people, is it journaling, was it meditating? Yeah. Well, what are some things that helped?
Yeah, it was- it- ultimately it’s people. I’ve had some experiences and in being a minority, I’ve had some experiences in the hospital system where there were some pretty overt microaggressions or experience, it wasn’t a daily thing. I definitely knew that things that were said or done. Mostly, you know, from patients or families, not fan co workers, that my counterparts that were not minorities did not experience. So, because of that those things really helped me say, and it’s even more important for me to be an advocate is even more important for me to root for the underdog and try to, for lack of a better term, you know, level the playing field and make that difference because not everyone has that voice or has the opportunity or has the means, you know, to do what I was doing, which was working full time and going to school full time. And that was probably the biggest impact for me, was other people trying to be obstructive, I suppose. So there was that. But then the flip side of that is that, I know that it was other people that helped me get to where I am. And that first health department job?
It was a nurse, it was a nurse who hired me. And she hired me as a, I came in as a supervisor over programs, clinical programs, which then changed to some other programming, you know, you just got to kind of reach back and bring that other person with you. And this amazing nurse who I still keep in touch with, she was the one who, who really said, I’m gonna take a chance on this girl. So I would always have to say that it was other people and just making those connections as we were talking before, you know, before we started, it’s really about making those connections. And for me, I have to be authentic in that.
Yeah. So we- if we continue on this journey, you’re- you go into one of the county’s Public Health Department as- as a supervisor, and then you move into kind of a manager role. Yeah, tell us about that.
So I go, amazing nurse, shout out to Leanne Beavers, who brings me and and I’m hired as a supervisor of clinical services. And that means overseeing the clinics sites and working for refugee health services. And from there, also over the immunization program, and then that morphed to minority health, the opposite minority health for the county. So that is all under me. And then this is where the other switch happens is that, you know, the Health Commissioner comes to me and says, we want to institute this policy program for maternal child health, which is an evidence based program nationally. And here you go. So that was when I really started, I had to build this program from scratch. And that was when I found my love of building programming. But what I will say is, this was a home listening program. And it was focused on maternal child health. So here we go, COVID hits.
You can’t go into homes anymore.
So COVID hit, and basically, you know, being at the health department, the beginning, it was, I don’t think I need to revisit that for anyone. But here we are, we can’t do what we’ve been doing. And now we have to make the switch. And I’m now working more so with the communicable disease department. And I, I kind of miss this. And that was when I decided okay, I am going to start to look at infectious disease because I really, really enjoyed working in the communicable disease department, and working with COVID. So I come back home to my- my county, because I was driving an hour each way to my other job. I’m back home, and I applied to an FQHC, who needed a director of infectious disease services. And it was perfect because I was able to do the clinical stuff and oversee the clinical services. And I was also able to work on that programming aspect, you know, different grants and outreach for HIV and hepatitis C for this FQHC and three very different counties. So we have the urban county, we have the mixed county, both urban and rural, and we are very, very rural county. So being able to see how that looks different. And all those different counties that are all bordering and then also being able to merge that clinical aspect with the programming aspects. And it was happening. And that also introduced me to I have this counterpart, a physician, this amazing and passionate physician who, an infectious disease provider. And, and let me say this was an infectious disease department at FQHC, which is kind of, rare federally qualified health center. But, you know, they had this- this vision to, and I should also say that it was really focused on the main service was behavioral health. So emerging that substance use disorder and behavioral health and infectious disease, it was so different. And then I have this counterpart, who has this amazing position, she’s so passionate, she wants to cure all HIV and all hepatitis C, she’s totally a visionary. She comes to me and says, I want to institute OKdo, HIV and hepatitis C testing across all service lines, everyone’s first visit in three counties. Okay, well, let’s figure out what we need to do to make that happen. So this is just two years ago. And that is when I really start to realize that I love the operational part, I had known that from starting to home visiting, but again, obliterated because of COVID. And then here I am again, building something from the beginning. So she tells me this vision. Okay, let’s get this started. So again, here we are programs and projects. And I’ve now found my- my niche and my joy intersection.
I love how each role is giving you more and more clarity about what you’re enjoying. I don’t know if you’re like putting those pieces together.
Yes. Yes, that was when I had this aha moment. And I have to say it was really because of her, shout out to you, who really said, you have such an operational mind. And it’s again, I love it, that’s what I do. You know, I, you tell me your vision, you tell me a, I’m gonna get you to Z. But I enjoy it. And it really is just this intersection of, of joy and what I’m good at. And yes, you are correct. There was like, each layer brought me here. And I’ve always said that, you know, hey, my career took all these twists and turns to get me here. But I think the reality of it was kind of linear, it’s just that they all built upon each other. And I just needed to find that.
Yeah, I don’t see it as a twist and turn, like the way I’m visualizing it. It’s like, there’s like this step. And then you kind of like hanging out in this like living room. Like another step up, like, that’s how I’m visualizing each of these, like points in your career, as you’re telling me this story, because you are in the hospital and you’re doing your clinical work, and you get exposed to so many things that making you frustrated, you want to find a solution, and you discover, okay, public health might be the way that you go into your- right, like the county public health into doing the home visiting program, and you’re like building this program, COVID hits and like, oh, infectious diseases, like, obviously, you’ve been exposed to, you know, working with patients with infections and things like that. But you know, that was your first experience working on a program where there is an infectious kind of disease involved. And then that, like opens you up to go explore, you know, being a director for infectious news services. And yeah, I kind of like see that as a very obviously, it wasn’t thought out now that you’re telling us.
It was just where I was supposed to go. And I would love to say that was the plan. That was the goal. But each step was the goal.
And they just kind of build upon each other. And I’m undoubtedly sure that right now I’m where I’m supposed to be.
And just a few months ago, I was like, you know, now that I found this intersection of joy and- and what I’m good at, what are you going to do about it?
So I was in the position where I said, you know, I’m gonna take some time off and try to build this thing. So I started my own consulting org.
We have a company. So here I am, I start PSD Consulting Group. And I just started that two months ago, and expecting to say, Okay, well, it’ll take about a year before I get a contract. That’s what everybody says and to build and I reach out to a colleague saying, hey, you know, I have some time I’m working for myself now, I’m building something, I’m no longer employed. How can I help you out? How can I volunteer for you? Because right now, you know, we’re experiencing some very challenging times with reproductive health and in the countrynand I reached out to her and said, hey, you know, like, half the time, let me volunteer for you. And she emails me back through LinkedIn, and says, for a project, a contract project manager, actually, I was like, well, I hadn’t planned on where I wanted to build this. But here we are. And so I’ve been working on my first contract for a month.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I’m very excited. It happens a lot sooner than expected.
But I’m doing what I- what I enjoy. And again, I know, this is where I’m supposed to be. And it’s just the step where I’m supposed to be right now.
That’s really wonderful. I’m, like smiling when I hear- I love hearing when people say, I know I am where I’m supposed to be. And I heard you say it a few times, where you kind of reflected on different people throughout your career telling you like, hey, Patrice, like, you’re really good in operations, you have an operational mind, or I think you have some public health experience. And I think it’s so important to just not nod to that and dismiss that comment when people can identify kind of your skills and your gift essentially, right? Because that’s going to give you more and more clarity in terms of what it is that maybe like your next step, right? Because like, as you’re, you’re telling me what people have told you, I’m sitting here thinking about, okay, what are some things people have identified in me, and they have told me, and obviously, like, we know this about ourselves, but it’s just like, when there’s a spotlight on those different skills, and you got to take those in and put the pieces together, because that’s going to make it easier for you to like, bring that clarity into what it is that maybe you should be focusing on your career, you know, the rest of your your work on.
That is exactly it. It’s so easy to recognize things in other people, sometimes we have a hard time recognizing them in ourselves or even recognizing the impact that it has.
I knew that I liked building programs and projects and working on process improvement and workflows. But it took someone else saying that’s a gift.
I just thought even I mean, I was embarrassed to say a year ago that that’s what everybody did. You know, that’s why everybody thought. And, again, you know, going back to the facilitator for NCLEX, when he says, I can tell your knowledge of public health, I had never even probably use those words before that.
So I would say, listen to other people, you know, ask other people what they see in you, and what they think you might be able to bring to the field. Or you might think you’re going one way, and someone sees something else. You’re like, oh, my goodness, yeah, you’re right.
Yeah, I think you said it right. Like you use sometimes know what it is that you’re good at. But people can help you to, like, give a word to it or articulate it in a way that you hadn’t predicted.
Exactly, exactly. And that’s not lost on me by any means. I know, without other people saying these things.
That I probably would not be where I am. But I had to listen to it. And I know there have been times I’ve totally poo pooed somebody saying something. And it’s just been like, okay, well, thanks.
But now that I’m a little older, we I’ve been in healthcare now for 23 years now. That I can look back on those things, and then realize how impactful it was, and I am grateful. I’m grateful.
I did this activity, I wanna say maybe earlier this year, or last year, it was from a book, and it was telling us to message or email, maybe like five of your friends or family members, like people that you often like, speak to about personal development and things like that, or even if it’s just your friends, and just simply ask them, what do you think I’m good at? And then see what they say like don’t give them any context to say like, when you think about me, what do you think I’m good at? And so I did that activity and everyone came back telling me like relationships, like I’m good at building relationships and like, I knew I like to do that and but then that’s when I started putting words to the things I like to do. So, you know, I love to bring people together. I love to build community. I love to build partnerships, and because I’m so good at it, then I help other people connect and make those relationships into like, projects or whatever it is. So I almost want to, like encourage our listeners, after this conversation, message, any five friends or colleagues or anybody that you’re close to and ask them, when you think about me, what comes to mind as like something that I’m really good at, or great at? And see what they tell you, and that could I gonna say that will definitely give you a bit more clarity in terms of like, where it is that you’re trying to build your career in.
Yes, absolutely, I completely encourage that I did something quite similar. I would also encourage people to say, maybe do one person who knows you a little bit less well.
Oh, yeah, yeah.
Someone who knows you more surface. Because sometimes I think that even that perspective, can be valuable. And they might see something a little bit different, or more that you never even thought of. But yes, that’s, that’s how I got through public health, such a vast and rewarding field. And I wouldn’t change a thing.
That was gonna be my next question. When you look back at your 17 years, is there anything that you would do differently?
You know, philosophically, no. And that is, you know, because of the proverbial butterfly and, you know, flapping the wings and changing the course of something. So I know that each, as you say, step is what allowed me to get to where I am, and I’m happy and know where I am. And I don’t know that that would have occurred if I skip the step. So philosophically now, fantasy wise, maybe, you know, I used to probably do things a little earlier in life. But again, I know I wouldn’t be where I am right now.
And the different life experiences also give you a different, I guess, perspective on each of the roles that you took on at the time that you did.
So with PSD consulting group one, congratulations on-
-badly, it’s no easy feat, just leaving a comfortable job with a salary to jump into starting something on your own. So yeah, I just want to say congratulations on that. I don’t know you have more to add about that transition?
You don’t always, I won’t say it’s not frightening, because it is.
You eat what you kill. And it’s all on me.
So right now, like I said, I thought it was gonna have some months to build it. So now I’m still kind of working a contract and building at night, or the weekends. But again, this is where I’m supposed to be. And just give yourself, if anyone’s ever thinking about going out on their own, or doing something that might feel a little uncomfortable, as you know, give yourself some grace, and realize it’s not going to go the way you planned on it. They go, make the plan, try to stick to the plan, but it’s not going to be the way you planned.
So what is the the big vision for PSD Consulting Group?
Yeah, for now? Well, my ultimate vision is, and this goes back to being able to, you know, put things into words, I kind of call myself right now, a healthcare operations strategist or healthcare project manager. So my vision is to be able to develop healthcare related programs and community organizations that are not healthcare based. And then to also work with established health organizations, more specifically community health centers, and improving their processes and workflows and, and ultimately integrating traditional health with public health. It’s the only way we’re going to make a difference. And I feel like 20 health centers are probably in a better position to do that. That’s my baby step right now. I also do some, as you mentioned, clarity, some also career coaching for our early and mid career healthcare professionals, to kind of help them identify that clarity. Because again, I’ve just been so grateful to what other people have seen and been able to land to this journey, that I want to be able to do that for someone else.
Yeah, yeah, no, absolutely. And so maybe we can end off on that note, what are some of the top questions that you get from early professionals? And what’s the advice that you offer for those questions?
The biggest one right now is student debt. You know, people want to make a transition, but you also have to be cognizant of the financial impact.
And it can you know, student loans can be debilitating. And unfortunately, education is very expensive. So it becomes a question of making a plan, identifying is there a step that you can do versus making that giant leap, you know, to gradually, maybe there’s something certificate wise, maybe there’s something you college wise, that will allow you to build that and be less expensive. So that is, I would say, one of the biggest hindrance for people who are looking for changes or pivots. And, you know, healthcare right now is in a transition. And, you know, there’s definitely these people are already evaluating that happen for the past couple of years. So I- just going back to what you had- I just encourage people to try to find their niche, and that actually is an activity is to ask other people, what do they see in them? What do you think you could bring? And what are you good at? And also looking to make a living?
So that is the reality of it. Those are the biggest questions and challenges. And the advice I tell everyone and even myself is, don’t forget where you came from. And that means, you know, many things, but also, you know, pull someone along, if you go into a leadership position, look back and, and see what that was like and reflect to when you weren’t leader and don’t lose that mindset, and recognize differences in people and that everyone’s experiences are different, and create synergy among that. So there’s really, I say that to people. And I kind of let them make their own interpretation of it. But I feel like it could be many things.
Thanks so much for that advice. And I think, yeah, not to end off on student debt. But I think that’s a big question. And thank you for starting that off or that conversation up. I don’t think we’ve talked about it at all, on the podcast, or even our blog. So I will certainly have to think about that a bit and see what sort of resources and things we can offer just to support in the way in some way possible. Otherwise, yeah, don’t forget where you came from. I think that’s a- that’s a great reminder as well. And I think I’ve seen somebody that had like, one of their younger pictures kind of stuck to the wall to give them that memory, to keep reminding themselves as a- as a visual cue. So that’s one way to keep reminding yourself of where you came from. Yeah. Thanks so much, Patrice. This is such a wonderful conversation. And I can’t wait for our listeners to hear your wonderful journey. And just I think you have such a nice calming voice. I think that’s part of-
-why this conversation is lovely.
Oh, well, thank you. I really appreciate it. And I hope that someone’s able to get something out of this. And I appreciate what you’re doing. And I mentioned to colleagues that what I was doing, she said, I wish that I had something like that when I entered public health. So I thank you.
Hey, I hope you enjoyed that episode. And if you want to get the links or information mentioned in today’s episode, you can head over to pHspot.org/podcast. And we’ll have everything there for you. And before you go, I want to tell you about the public health career club. So if you’ve been looking for a place to connect and build meaningful relationships with other public health professionals, from all around the world, you should join us in the public health career club. We launched the club with the vision of becoming the number one hangout spot dedicated to building and growing your dream public health career. And in addition to being able to connect and build those meaningful relationships with other public health professionals, the club also offers other great resources for your career growth and success, like mindset coaching, job preparation, clinics, and career growth strategy sessions in the form of trainings and talks, all delivered by experts and inspiring individuals in these areas. So if you want to learn more, or want to join the club, you can visit our page at pHspot.org/club. And we’ll have all the information there. And you know, as a space that’s being intentionally curated to bring together like minded public health professionals who are not only there to push themselves to become the best versions of themselves, but also each other. And with that, I can’t wait to see how this is going to have a ripple effect in the world as we all work together to better the health of our populations and just have immense impact in the world out and I hope you’ll be joining us in the public health career club.