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Meet Jessica Hawk, MPH, a PHI/CDC Monitoring & Evaluation Fellow based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania with the Strategic Information Branch. Jessica holds a Master of Public Health, with certificates in Monitoring and Evaluation of International Health Programs and Health Communications from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Jessica is a two-time Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, serving in Zambia and Malawi, focusing on social and behavior change communication, capacity building of local health systems, and supporting Malawi’s mass insecticide-treated mosquito net distribution.

Jessica was drawn to the PHI/CDC Global Health Fellowship Program because of her desire to further develop her monitoring and evaluation skills. Jessica wanted to learn how to improve the use of data and evidence to overcome implementation challenges with large scale health interventions, and she believed this Fellowship Program would fulfill her goal. Since becoming a Fellow, Jessica has supported the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) quarterly reporting and has served as the Acting PEPFAR Senior Oversight and Accountability Technical Advisor with the PEPFAR Coordination Office in the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania. These opportunities allowed her to oversee all strategic information activities across PEPFAR Tanzania as a key technical advisor. Jessica has also mastered the PEPFAR Monitoring, Evaluation, and Reporting indicators, and has built skills in planning data quality assessments and implemented them for key HIV indicators.

Throughout her fellowship, Jessica has continued to refine her technical skills as her work becomes increasingly sophisticated. She says her fellowship has offered many professional development and work opportunities, which have allowed her to hone her technical expertise. Most recently, she has been advancing her leadership and management skills to prepare for a leadership role and will be sitting for the Program Management Professional certificate exam.

Fellowship Reflection

When Jessica reflects on her favorite times throughout her fellowship, she thinks of when she had the opportunity to attend activities and visit facilities throughout Tanzania. She fondly looks back to the moments when she conducted training for data collectors in Zanzibar, led data quality assessments in Mwanza, and provided technical assistance to data collection teams in Iringa. Jessica’s love for global health recharges most in situations like these – when she’s given the opportunity to work directly in the communities she supports.

Jessica says that her Tanzanian and American colleagues are powerful, empathetic, and servant leaders, and that learning from them has made her a better colleague and leader. She feels that the professional relationships she has developed with her colleagues along the way have become one of the most meaningful parts of her fellowship. She enjoys that CDC Tanzania’s organizational culture makes colleagues feel like family and has allowed her to develop friendships beyond work. Jessica and her colleagues often get together to play football (soccer) and eat some of Tanzania’s delicious foods. Apart from her colleagues in Tanzania, Jessica feels very lucky to have Nick Schaad as her mentor. He has not only encouraged her to sharpen her skills but has also supported her personal and professional interests along the way.

“CDC Tanzania has an amazing staff with incredible expertise and I’m lucky to learn from and work alongside such incredible leaders in public health.”

Jessica feels that the experience she has gained from the PHI/CDC Global Health Fellowship Program has greatly improved her job application outcome. She is getting more interview opportunities than previous years and has great examples to draw from due to her fellowship experience. She says it’s also a great feeling to have such confidence when addressing the wide array of questions asked during interviews.

Global Health Career Trajectory

After her fellowship, Jessica will have 6+ years of professional work experience in sub-Saharan Africa, which opens many doors to supervisory job opportunities abroad. She hopes to continue a life-long career in global health – using her program management expertise and strong evaluation skills – to help global health programs adapt to the changing world in a timely, efficient, and impactful way.

For those beginning their career in global health or interested in advancing their experience, Jessica recommends utilizing LinkedIn, Devex, and Idealist platforms. For her, they have been a great tool for job searching and identifying the necessary technical expertise required for certain roles. She also recommends seeking out professional development opportunities which build on your technical skills and incorporating these professional development experiences into your interviews.

Jessica also shared that as a young professional, she believes it is imperative to share opportunities that interest you with your supervisor or mentor. She says, “your supervisor always wants to see you succeed, but they won’t know your interests unless you share them, so don’t be afraid to!”

If you have additional questions about Jessica’s work, feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn.

Lauren Sebesta, Program Administrative Assistant