Student Spotlight: Naima Gardner

Education: MPH – Behavioral, Social and Community Health; graduating May 2017

Position: Grassroots Director, American Heart Association

What do you enjoy most about your job? 

My job offers me a lot of independence in terms of how I approach my directives. My position pretty much sits right on the intersection of public health and policy, which has always been my greatest interest. Working in the state legislature has further illuminated the fact that there is a need for a greater public health presence at the policy level. I am so excited to be part of that change.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part of my job is dealing with lawmakers who don’t see the value in investing in public health. In Indiana, it is difficult to get any new funding approved, but even more difficult for policies to promote health. It is frustrating that many in the legislature don’t see the connection between population health and other state metrics such as unemployment rates and overall economic wellbeing.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I have no typical days! I only work in the office a couple of days a week, the rest of the time I am either at the statehouse meeting with lawmakers, or traveling around the state attending food-related events and connecting with community members and stakeholders.

How did IU prepare you to be successful in your job?

My time at IU has provided me with a broad and fundamental understanding of public health that serves me well every day. Specifically, taking Dr. Beth Meyerson’s Public Health Policy and Politics course really helped me understand how public health professionals can play a role in policy formation. This is what I want to do for the rest of my career!

Tell us about the Indiana Health Food Access Coalition in three sentences:

The Indiana Healthy Food Access Coalition is comprised of over 60 diverse community organizations, united in the shared vision of ensuring that every Indiana resident has access to healthy, affordable food. We meet monthly to discuss ways to advocate for our policy agenda and engage in the communities we serve.

Any advice for graduating students?

Hold out for a job that you love, it’s out there!

Check out Naima being interviewed about food deserts on Inside INdiana Business.


Rachel Brown is a second-year graduate student. She is pursuing a Master of Public Health with a concentration in Professional Health Education. Rachel loves sharing her passion for health and wellness with others, traveling to new places, and enjoying a good meal.

By Rachel Brown
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