We have a new space dedicated to mentors and mentees across the network called the NRMN Showcase. The National Research Mentoring Network is a consortium comprised of amazing individuals all over the nation, and we want to share their stories. This new initiative will feature individuals on a nomination basis. If you know someone that exemplifies the spirit of mentoring and inclusivity, fill out the nomination form below to show how much you appreciate them.
To get us started, we have Andrae Ivy, a wonderful NRMN member and a rising pioneer in public health.
1. Tell us about yourself (education, career, goals, etc.).
I’m originally from New Albany, Mississippi, which is a town in the northeast part of the state. Academically, I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Grambling State University and a Master of Public Health degree in Epidemiology from Saint Louis University. From the beginning, I always wanted to improve community health and incorporate high-impact policies in society, targeting chronic conditions such as obesity and diabetes. Eventually, I got the chance to pursue this desire upon getting a position at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.
During my time at the CDC, I worked in the Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention and CDC’s Healthy Communities Program, completing major projects on state health indexes, assessment tools and high-impact policy projects. Following these positions in 2012, I became the Director of Quality Management at Amerigroup Community Care. While these positions provided great opportunities for me, I also had a strong desire to help others pursue their dreams and ambitions.
In 2014, I became the Research Coordinator at the Grand Rapids African American Health Institute (GRAAHI) in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In this position I led many research projects and initiatives for the organization. The main project I researched and developed was GRAAHI’s Health Equity Index (hei.graahi.org), which is a website that empowers citizens with health data, resources, stories, and recommendations to combat health equity issues in West Michigan and across the state.
Throughout each stage of my career, I made it a priority to mentor and support others, including undergraduate and graduate students. I really enjoy doing this type of work. In retrospect, everyone is always trying to find or evolve their niche, so helping others is always satisfying to me.
2. When you first stepped out into the workforce (post-education), did you feel prepared for your role?
I felt mostly prepared for the workforce upon entering it. I had mentors in both undergraduate and graduate school who helped prepare me for the academic side of the workforce. However, navigating the politics, grants and culture of the workforce was somewhat challenging on certain levels. I remember while working at the CDC, I purposely sought mentors to help me navigate its politics, as there were many. I just found it useful to surround myself with people who wanted to see others be successful too.
- What has been your experience with mentoring thus far (prior to NRMN)?
As mentioned, I had mentors throughout my career who helped me. Several years back, I became a mentor while working at the nonprofit in Michigan. The Van Andel Institute asked me to mentor some of their African American students, and I quickly agreed. It was very meaningful to speak with my mentees, as they shared their interests, concerns and challenges with me.
In many cases, I could relate with many of their concerns while offering them recommendations and insights. Eventually, my mentees grew a desire to hear my past experiences and stories too, as I enjoyed telling them in entertaining ways. It was important to show them an empathic and realistic perspective. Overall, I’ve had a positive experience with mentoring and being mentored, assisting others with navigating professional environments, especially in the public health and scientific communities.
- How did you hear about NRMN and what made you decide to join?
I don’t quite remember how I learned about the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN). While working in Michigan, I had a strong desire to move to the Dallas-Fort Worth area to continue my career. Upon doing an online search for mentoring and networking groups in the area, I believe I stumbled across NRMN during that time. I was looking for ways to integrate into a program that could help me connect with new opportunities and cool professionals. I just wanted to meet other dedicated professionals who shared my intense desire to conduct meaningful public health research, specifically on health equity issues in the area and across the nation.
- Have you participated in other similar programs in the past? If so, how has your experience with NRMN been different or unique?
In college, I was a scholar in the program called: Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC). MARC assisted and encouraged us to obtain postgraduate degrees in a scientific field. MARC provided us access to “Graduate Record Examination” seminars and internships during the summer at prestigious universities across the country. I actually performed internships at the University of Virginia and Tufts University as a MARC scholar. So MARC was a very positive experience for me and my colleagues in college, as we planned our future careers.
In graduate school, I was a member of the Eliminating Health Disparities (EHD) Program at Saint Louis University. This program enabled EHD members to conduct assistantships while also earning our Master degrees. Thus, I successfully completed several research projects within the Health Communication Research Laboratory, which was operated by Dr. Matthew Kreuter.
Concerning the NRMN community, I’ve been very impressed with it so far. Several people have responded to me with resources and suggested connections. So it’s nice to find other professionals in the area who are willing to collaborate with me.
- What do you look for in a mentor?
I look for a mentor who shares similar interests with me along with a breadth of knowledge and experiences that can help me navigate my path. Ultimately, I think the best mentors are engaging, respectful, patient, and willing to listen. I look for these qualities in a mentor, while also providing these qualities to the students I mentor.
- Describe a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.
I successfully wrote an autobiography for a doctor in Michigan. I spent nearly 2.5 years writing and editing this book, while interviewing the doctor about his life, lessons, cultures and experiences. This project is still ongoing, but I enjoy the process of writing and the ability to tell stories that captivate the minds and imaginations of readers.
- Each morning, what do you look most forward to in the day?
Every morning, I look forward to learning something new while also finding ways to positively impact the lives of others. Additionally, I’m always seeking methods to improve myself, especially in the realm of health. Eating better, exercising and meditating are also hobbies of mine to help me stay healthy, happy and productive.
- What is your current position and what is your favorite aspect of it?
Currently, I’m a part-time consultant with GRAAHI, as I continue to update and maintain GRAAHI’s Health Equity Index. I thoroughly enjoy working on projects that are focused on reducing health inequities in our society, while empowering communities to take charge of their health. Much more can be done, as I continually stay interested in other opportunities that can support this passion of mine while living in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
- If money were no object, what would be your dream job?
Since writing is one of my greatest passions, being a screenplay writer would be my dream occupation. I actually wrote a screenplay many years ago, which required tons of time and dedication. Who knows? Maybe I’ll find a way to blend my passion of public health and screenplays together one day. That would definitely be a great day!
- Anything else that you would like to share?
My career has been enlightening so far, but the journey still has many miles to go. I’ll continue to stay positive and productive on this path, while hoping to help others I meet along the way. If anyone would like to discuss any of my experiences and/or potential opportunities to collaborate, feel free to reach me at AndraeIvy1@gmail.com. Thanks for your time, and I wish everyone a great holiday season!