Public Health grad pays it forward to inspire others

August 13, 2019

By Sally Crocker

Grad Web2

As Beatle Ringo Starr once wrote, “You know, it don’t come easy.”

For Dr. Carolyn Bradley-Guidry (DrPH ’19), the turning point came midway through her UNT Health Science Center public health doctoral degree program.

The first in her family to graduate from college, with a nursing degree and a bachelor’s and master’s in Physician Assistant (PA) Studies already under her belt, Dr. Bradley-Guidry had achieved some significant career successes when she found herself at a roadblock in her Doctor of Public Health pursuits.

Basically, she was ready to call it quits.

She didn’t really need another degree to have a positive impact on the lives of others. At almost 50, she had more than 30 years in the health care field and a faculty position teaching and pioneering efforts in diversity and inclusion at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

Work, family and community engagement were all taking enough of her time.

She had reached a point of overload; she felt overwhelmed.

Maybe it was better, she thought, to give it a rest.

The inspiration to keep going, and what has always pushed Dr. Bradley-Guidry forward, came from her faith and the love and support of others.

Family, and especially her parents, husband and three daughters, were there to say, “Do it, you know you can, don’t give up.”

“I once heard a pastor at a revival speak about ‘ABC,’ the concept of ‘Adversity Builds Character,’ and it’s true, the trials and tribulations of life will always come,” Dr. Bradley-Guidry said. “It’s how you handle those challenges that determines your success.”

A sweet moment for Dr. Bradley-Guidry was hearing her name called at UNTHSC commencement as recipient of this year’s President’s Award for Scholarly Excellence in Academics.

Taking on the tough challenges – and excelling to the highest level in her UNTHSC studies – gives her an opportunity to inspire others, to tell them, “You can do it, too.”

Born in Mississippi and raised in Dallas, she first studied nursing with the assistance of student loans and then was able to pay them off, building her career along the way.

Her nursing degree led to a job at Parkland Hospital, where she was inspired by a physician mentor to go even further, completing both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in PA Studies.

Dr. Bradley-Guidry found her way to public health in 2013 when she was selected as one of 90 out of more than 400 applicants for a Translational Health Disparities Scholars program through the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities.

“The educational experience was life changing, and enhanced my knowledge of social determinants of health and health disparities,” she said.

“As soon as I returned home, I began searching for a public health graduate program. I had always felt a burning desire to do more for the community, and I saw that opportunity with public health,” Dr. Bradley-Guidry said. “I wanted to take my experience in working with patients one-on-one to an expanded, community-based approach.”

Because she grew up in some of the same neighborhoods, churches and schools as the people she now serves, Dr. Bradley-Guidry feels a strong connection to both her patients and the PA students she trains.

“I encourage patients to take ownership of their own health and to be a change agent for others,” she said. “If I can motivate one person to live healthier, maybe that person can inspire his or her family and carry it on to other people they know in their community.”

In the classroom, she assumes the role of educator, mentor, faculty liaison and role model.

“Students sometimes think they can do it on their own. My story demonstrates how a strong support network can help get you through,” she said. “It might be family, peers, close connections or professors who are there for you. You never know where you’ll find your support.”

Her advice to anyone with a goal or dream is to “work hard, remain faithful, identify a support system and mentors, don’t give up and let your outcomes speak for you.”

“If others hadn’t helped me along the way, we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now,” Dr. Bradley-Guidry said. “I could not have done any of this without my faith and the love and support of my family, mentors and the people who told me I could do it.”

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