As a Public Health Advisor at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, GA, South University alumna Tawana M. Williams relies on an impressive mix of skills she’s built throughout her professional and educational journey.
“Every degree I’ve earned – my B.A. in English, master's in mass communications and MBA in Healthcare Administration – has made all the difference in my life! It's like my professional DNA, what makes me, ME!” she says. “I truly believe that they all complement each other and that is what enables me to be the well-rounded professional that I am today.”
Williams earned her first two degrees back-to-back in 1997 and 2000. Utilizing her communications and English skills, she went on to hold roles that included teaching in K-12 and college, serving in the Louisiana Lieutenant Governor’s press office, working for a private company that provided healthcare services for 1.5 million Georgians, and writing, editing, and managing content for entertainment, environmental services and nonprofit organizations.
Eventually, Williams decided to focus on healthcare administration going forward. Fourteen years into her professional life, in 2014, Williams completed her MBA in Healthcare Administration program at South University. “The staff at South University, from day one, were super supportive!” says Williams. “I was lucky to have professors that gave professional advice that led me to higher heights.”
Armed with her new degree and letters of recommendation from professors, Williams soon became an Operations Analyst in the Georgia Department of Public Health HIV/AIDS Unit. In 2015, she applied to the CDC Public Health Associate Program, a competitive program designed for recent graduates willing to work on the frontlines across the US. Of over 4,000 applicants, Williams was one of only 200 individuals accepted.
As a Public Health Associate, Williams moved to Maryland to work for the Baltimore City Health Department. There, she provided her expertise to support Hepatitis C and HIV diagnosis and treatment programs, while also serving as a patient case manager and providing rapid HCV/HIV testing, client education and communication. She was also a liaison between physicians, administrators and other clinical providers and staff. For Williams, the work was not only meaningful but also important to her professional growth. “I learned a great deal there working with staff, clinicians and patients,” she says. “I also networked with healthcare professionals from other esteemed organizations, including The Johns Hopkins Hospital.”
In 2017, Williams returned to Atlanta to work as a Public Health Advisor in the CDC. Today, she assists with planning, implementing and evaluating public health communication plans, messaging and marketing activities. She also works to improve CDC processes and operating procedures to maximize efficiency and productivity. “One recent high point has been serving as Interim Team Lead for a COVID-19 deployment team, which was composed of CDC colleagues in much higher positions than myself. Being entrusted to carry out that duty is truly humbling,” she says.
Williams hopes that current and future South University students will likewise apply their skills to improve their communities. “Always find a way to stretch yourself,” she advises. “Learn new skills and give back to others. Don't let your degrees and accomplishments be in vain. Do something important and impactful with them!”