Interview Hillary Chisholm, Development Associate, Partners In Health

Jon Shaffer
[global health] [interview]

How did you arrive at Partners in Health?

In college, I was an Environmental Studies major, but the track I followed was called “Global Environment and Social Change.” Over the course of my studies, I became fascinated with how communities respond to change, and how we better design policies and programs that benefit more people and create lasting community bonds. I developed a strong interest in nutrition and began working for an organic food and juice company immediately after graduation. While I loved the educational aim of the company and the nutritional focus, I knew I wanted to be working on the more ‘public’ side of health. So, I applied to a job at Partners In Health, which is an organization that I had long admired for its community-based approach to health care, and was ultimately offered a position!

What is the root of your passion for public health?

Fundamentally, I’m doing this work because I want to devote my time to creating opportunities and opening doors for others.  While that involves building successful programs, it also involves breaking down barriers. Whether that’s access to food, health care, or education, I see working towards greater public health as my way to contribute to positive social change and improved lives on a daily basis.

Have you experienced any challenges growing in your field?

Public Health is a very broad field, and one that requires professionals with a wide variety of experiences and backgrounds. While I love that there’s always more to learn, this presents a challenge in terms of gaining an understanding of a variety of fields and concepts. I always take the time to read up on things mentioned in readings or meetings that I don’t understand and constantly make lists of things to investigate in my free time. I’ve learned that I have a lot to learn about public health, and it’s a challenge that I’m committed to pursuing.

How do you hope to see your career develop within the next few years?

I’m really excited about the next few years! I’ll be starting graduate school in the fall, pursuing a master’s degree in public health, and am looking forward to not only learning more but also having the space to explore different ideas and frameworks. I’m also looking forward to meeting and collaborating with more people in the field.

As a young professional yourself, what words of advice would you have for soon-to-be graduates?

There’s always more to learn! I would recommend taking advantage of every opportunity that comes your way, whether that’s a lecture or simply coffee with a coworker, and making sure to occasionally check in with yourself to make sure that you’re keeping your passions and interests in mind. While they might not immediately show up in your everyday work, each experience is valuable and will only add to the complexity of your thinking and your frame of reference.  Most importantly, ask questions—of yourself and others, that can help you to understand different experiences or ways of thinking.