Alumni Profile: Cara Sumi, BSPH '09

Cara Sumi, BSPH ’09, came to the Milken Institute School of Public Health as an eager student already knowing she wanted to dedicate her career to global public health. Having the drive and passion for public health, Cara found her global health elective courses reaffirming. She reveled in her program, and found her professors to be interesting, engaging, and an invaluable asset to her public health career. GWSPH’s optimal location to our nation’s and the world’s many global health organizations allowed her to develop many connections to public health leaders by leveraging her relationships with GW’s vastly connected professors. This allowed Cara to secure valuable internship experiences during her time at GWSPH, and ultimately dovetailed to a fulfilling and challenging career path in global health.

When talking about her experiences at GWSPH, Cara says, “I attribute my success to a mix of my education and knowledge gained from GW, my internship experiences, persistence, and some luck and good timing.” Luck may have played a part in Cara’s success, but her hard-work and perseverance ultimately was the defining factor. Upon graduating, Cara accepted a position with USAID where she gained invaluable experiences.  Throughout her early career at USAID, she executed multiple roles including supporting the implementation of global health policy for the Bureau for Global Health and providing country support for the Africa Bureau.  She also eventually pursued an opportunity to work and live in Liberia working in community health programs. Her drive and passion for public health continued to grow and ultimately led Cara back to the classroom to build on her wealth of knowledge by pursuing a Master of Science in Public Health. 

After getting her Master’s, Cara worked with Results for Development Institute on health systems strengthening and equity, and currently, is working at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in the Office of the President of their Global Development Program. The role, she says, is much more strategic than technical, and has allowed her to embrace her value as a public health generalist. When asked what her dream job looks like, Cara had this to say: “Right now I’m pretty happy with the experiences I’ve had and where I think my career is going. I think it’s important to try different things to discover both what you have a passion for, and also what you are good at if you’re pursuing a career in global health.” She has continued to call on a golden piece of advice she once received, that creating relationships and making connections all along the way is key. She said “utilize your connections, and let them use you”. Effective networking and relationship building is putting in the effort to meaningfully engage with colleagues and then placing a priority on maintaining those valuable connections. Cara has done an exemplary job at illustrating this process. In an increasingly competitive market, the relationships built in the public health community accompanied by the educational foundation, and GW experiences set Cara apart on a path to success and making positive global public health impacts.