Preparing for the next generation of public health actors / by Terry Huang

One of my passions is to coach public health students and prepare them for the new frontiers of public health. Much of this coaching draws from my experience of having worked as one of the senior leaders in obesity science and policy at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in combination with my own academic career. The unique blend of experience in policy, practice, and science has significantly shaped my worldview and how I approach my career.  With regard to students, first off, what I tell them is that there is not one single career path for graduates in public health. Second, I see it as our duty as leaders in public health to give our students the diversity of skills to be marketable and competitive in all sectors of society, not only in academia, public health agencies or other health organizations. In fact, if we want to improve public health, we must have foot soldiers and captains throughout society. How else would we able to build a coalition of change agents to effect change in every corner of the system? My work at the NIH taught me that science or academia alone cannot solve the most pressing challenges we face today, such as climate change or chronic disease morbidity and mortality. Politics is a big part of the equation. So is the private sector. During my time at the NIH, I had the fortune to lead or co-sponsor several cross-sectoral forums. I learned a lot about the complexity of sectoral and organizational change and that there is a need for public and private sectors to support and prod each other to build a better, common society for all. We also need to delegate responsibilities so that each sector and organization can leverage its strength to play a part in shaping our future. This solution-oriented perspective is what I wish to instill in the next generation of public health scientists and practitioners.