Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Five Questions: The Second Question

Tackling the second question second, the question is:

2) What degree do you hold and what other jobs have you held before your job with Texas AIDS Network?

After answering the fifth question, you might be able to guess a bit about my education. I really, really wanted to be an astronomer when I was finishing high school and getting ready for college. That's because I figured that an astronomer would be needed to help navigate when we started exploring beyond the solar system, and I wanted a spot on the ship.

As it turns out, I was better prepared in English than in math and science, so I ended up majoring in English for my first degree. I did some graduate work in English, but I was still looking for those long voyages beyond my boundaries anyway, so I eventually switched my major to Anthropology. I completed both a Master of Arts and a Doctor of Philosophy in that field.

Jobs. Not so many. Teacher. Researcher. Association executive. I taught Swahili. I did research in Swahili. I was ED for a nursing association (although I am not a nurse).

The answer to your question should reveal my qualifications--or at least my interest--in HIV as a prelude to becoming Executive Director of Texas AIDS Network. Since I seem not to have done that, I'll tackle the answer in a slightly different way.

Texas AIDS Network focuses at the moment on access to HIV medications. We may--and have--shift our focus to prevention issues or service issues or other things as time and resources permit. But right now, our major concern is how to get medications to Texans living with HIV/AIDS.

As part of our focus we do research on the system that provides access to medications. We look at public systems, we look at private systems. My research skills are what come in handy here. We also conduct educational activities. We present seminars and workshops, conference presentations. We develop learning tools for clients and providers. My years of teaching come in handy here. We also look at where the system--that we have studied and talked about in educational forums--needs to be improved or better funded. That involves advocacy, both in terms of providing information to the community about the issues that we have discovered and going directly to policy makers to seek those changes.

As it happens, nothing in my academic background prepared me for the advocacy component. I picked up that skill set when my neighborhood was threatened by a development that we didn't want. From there came coalition building, appointment to an advisory board, and running a political campaign. These were all volunteer positions, but they gave me a lot of experience from several angles for working on policy.

As for HIV, there is both a personal and an intellectual component to my coming to this job. On one of those last trips to Africa, sort of my last stand as an anthropologist, there was already evidence that something terrible was happening. As a friend in Catholic Relief Services said: "The bodies were stacked up like cordwood in the morgue." Working with the nurses association (my first shot at an actual policy job), I first learned about AIDS and the connection with what I had heard about while in Africa. And then I lost two family members to the epidemic.

When this job came along I was ready. I had the motive and the means; all I needed was the opportunity to try to make a difference. Texas AIDS Network gave me that opportunity.


Wes said...

Please read and then email me at and tell me what you think of it.

Thank you,


Brad said...

Thanks for the answers so far Carolyn. Living in Florida -- which is predominantly bilingual with some tri- and quad-lingual parts -- I can definately see the relevance of learning additional languages. It's also good to see how your multidisciplinary background has contributed to your career.

I do appreciate the time you've put into answering these questions, and I look forward to seeing the rest.