Alumni Profile: Corstella Henley, MPH '09

What degree did you receive from the Milken Institute School of Public Health? What was your concentration?

Master’s in Public Health and Health Promotion

Please tell us about your current position. Can you describe a typical day?

I am the Regional Minority Health Consultant for the Office of Minority Health, Region VII which consists of the following states: MO, IA, KS, and NE. I serve as principal advisor to the Regional Health Administrator and the Director of the Office of Minority Health on minority health issues and needs throughout Region VII. I work with local and state government officials, community and faith-based organizations, and academic institutions. I assist with identifying gaps in access to quality of care for the minority community and recommending programmatic solutions to address the health disparities within my region. A typical day would consist of meetings and calls with stakeholders from various sectors to discuss a national initiative to address a particular public health topic and/or issue. I work with the community on various topics and issues to clearly define need and discuss short/ long term action steps to address the need. My job really allows me to put “boots on the ground.” This is truly a team effort and I work with amazing partners who I learn from every day.

Please tell us about your path from Milken Institute SPH to where you are today. How did you get your first job in the field?

My path was a challenging one as I juggled work, the Black Public Health Student Network-GW Chapter as a Co-Founder, and classes. However, I had great mentors and advisors who ensured that I stayed focus on my academic and career goals. I’m so thankful for them! I landed my first job in the field as a Program Associate for a well-known AIDS service organization (ASO) in Washington, DC by way of my Practicum. During my practicum, I worked as an Evaluation Intern for the ASO, and started networking as soon as I arrived and as a result was offered a full-time opportunity.

What is the best career advice you have ever received?

The best advice I received was from both my mentor and mom that you only need one yes. This advice is truly relevant now. It’s easy to get discouraged after applying for several jobs or submitting unsuccessful proposals/abstracts, but at some point you’ll hear a YES. Just make sure you’re ready when you hear it. Be patient and diligent.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to work in your field?

My advice would be to network, intern, volunteer, and work on your interpersonal skills. In the field of public health, we work for the public – the people. We serve them, so make sure you can communicate with the people you serve. Network with different people within your field and find mentors who are willing to assist you with your career goals. Volunteer and intern to acquire experience working in the field. Lastly, do your homework and be a lifelong learner. Stay abreast of what’s going on in the world around you via news, radio, community conversation, etc. Regardless if it’s domestic or international health, knowledge is power.

What was the impetus for getting your degree at Milken Institute SPH?

I always knew I wanted to serve the community, more specifically communities of color. After my uncle’s passing of AIDS in 1996, I experienced the stigma and fear due to a lack of knowledge of HIV/AIDS. I knew I had to be one of many who were not afraid to speak up about HIV and other stigmatic illnesses that were disproportionately affecting communities of color. I felt a degree at SPH would help me in my efforts and provide me an opportunity to develop and enhance my skill set and expand my knowledge base of the field of public health.

Interview conducted July 2014