Meet Your Mentor: Chinyere Neale

In the FPHLP, our Mentors are professionals who support and provide guidance to students during and after the program. Two mentors are assigned to each cluster of students.

In the Meet Your Mentor series, you will learn about some of the people who dedicate their time to help FPHLP participants form professional networks and understand different perspectives of the public health field.

Meet Chinyere Neale, Director of Programs in the Office of Global Public Health at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

Chinyere Neale meets with studentsFPHLP: What is your role in the Office of Global Public Health?

Chinyere: I am the Director of Programs. I plan programs, administer funding awards and a range of other activities in the Office.

FPHLP: What advice would you give new people entering the field of public health today?

Chinyere: I went to a conference a couple of years back, and a panelist said they had surveyed a large number of organizations engaged in public health practice and who tend to hire people with MPH degrees. The survey indicated that the hardest skills to find were those we call the “soft skills,” people skills: communication, listening, collaboration and team work, that kind of thing. Almost everything else can be learned on the job, but you learn the “soft skills” in life, and with the right attitude. So my advice would be to develop really strong people skills.

FPHLP: What has been your proudest moment as a mentor?

Chinyere: Actually, I had the best FPHLP group in the world last year, and I was very proud of the discussion they held with a social demographer we invited to meet with us. They were so thoughtful and curious, while being professional and enthusiastic at the same time.

FPHLP: What is a key strength you bring to your role as a mentor? How would you advise students to utilize their own strengths to further their careers?

Chinyere: I think I bring perspective from a lengthy career. Young people are so often unclear of what they want to do but think they have to make definite choices NOW! I am able to talk to them about looking at their jobs and classes and experiences like a shopping cart they are filling, and it will be a while, perhaps, before they reach checkout. But like in the market, you want to make certain the various groceries are fresh, worth their price, and compatible with you and others.

FPHLP: What would you recommend to a student considering FPHLP?

Chinyere: Grades and awards are not what matters, once you leave the academy. The ability to work with people, to give and take, to motivate yourself rather than looking for a pat on the back are all SO important. This is why it is important to find work that you love. Public Health can be really rewarding, but it can be frustrating as well. Love it, or find something else to do. It is not going to provide immediate gratification.