Born in raised in CT, I have since lived in about 10 different states due to work, school, and the military. I started out my career as a dual registered ultrasound tech in South Florida working out of two hospitals and one private high risk OBGYN office. Joining the Army at 25, I underwent rigorous language training in Arabic as a cryptolinguist at the Defense Language Institute in California before joining the 101st Airborne in Fort Campbell, KY. After being discharged, I opened a gym in West Palm Beach before deciding to go back to school for a Master’s in Public Health at UF. It was during this time when I met my wife and decided to move to Austin, TX after graduation to work as an Environmental Health Specialist. Two years later we decided that we couldn’t be away from the beautiful Florida beaches, and decided to move to St. Petersburg where I am currently working for FL Department of Health in Pinellas County as a Public Health Manager.
This is my first semester in the Doctorate in Health Science program with a Global Health concentration with plans to eventually become a Health Department Director or move into the private sector possibly in Hospital Administration. I’m an avid fitness junkie with over 15 years experience as a personal trainer, and hopes to compete in bodybuilding within the next year, so between this Doctorate program, working full time, community work, and doing an intensive bodybuilding diet, I am going to be challenged quite extensively–mentally and physically.
During my time serving in the U.S. Army, I learned many things that have helped shape who I am today. Among these skills are two that I deem most valuable—creativity and leadership—since they resonate substantially with everyday life and have guided me towards a career in the field of Public Health. As the next stage of my personal growth and evolution is approaching as I prepare to begin work on a Doctorate, I intend to leverage what I have learned to help lay the foundation as a future educator.
When most people think about skills learned in the military, creativity probably doesn’t come to mind. However, from the first day in Basic Training, being creative is a foundational trait that is instilled. The well-known tenet of the military lifestyle, “adapt and overcome” is a perfect example of how service members are taught to use creativity to move past a problem and successfully complete a mission. In a literal sense, being creative involves taking a piece of the imagination whether it is an image, abstract, idea, or knowledge, and then conceptualizing these elements into a tangible product or action that conveys a message or methodology. To me, creativity is an unrecognized form of genius that displays the ability to move beyond the normal constraints of life by being innovative and developing an original product or outcome. Creativity is an outlet that not only allows individuals to be expressive and convey the internal workings of the mind and sense of self, but it also fosters intrinsic and extrinsic growth through a paradigm shift in understanding.
In my chosen field—public health—creativity is a staple in creating initiatives and educational information that is both informative and engaging. Understanding your audience (the community) and then being able to use different mediums to tailor materials on various health topics can be challenging. Developing public health initiatives through a health equity lens that also considers the social determinants of health can be difficult and requires a great amount of creativity and outside-of-the-box thinking. Understanding that there will be unforeseen obstacles and that not everything will go according to plan, and then being able to remain calm, stay the course, and adapt is perfectly reminiscent of military service and employing this skill.
Unlike creativity, leadership is a skill that most oftentimes is associated with the military. Working in the health sector for the government, we are viewed as the subject matter experts and leaders to help steer the public towards improved health outcomes. Therefore, it is easy to see the need for this important skill to be successful. In my educational goal of achieving a terminal degree to help maximize my training and therefore my knowledge and skills, I intend to not only use leadership to teach and educate others within the community but future public health workers by eventually becoming a professor at a university.
Serving in the Army was a bittersweet time in my life filled with sacrifice, honor, excitement, learning, teaching, happiness, and sadness. It helped build my character and shape who I am today, and despite the challenges and hardship it sometimes created, I would do it all over again. As I begin this journey towards earning my Doctorate, I will never forget the lessons and skills I learned while serving.