NFBPWC Young BPW turns the spotlight on members who are making an impact in their profession. Featured members exemplify the mission of the BPW of uniting and advocating for women everywhere.
Meet Keri Hess!
A member of BPW/Downtown Sacramento and BPW/California, Keri grew up in Massachusetts, 26.2 mi from Boston, the start of the Boston Marathon! She moved back to California when she was 17, went to Sacramento State University and received a B.S. in Health Science, minoring in Biology.
Keri’s first job after undergrad was with a county health department where she worked on tobacco and smoke-free policies for local jurisdictions and on motor vehicle and car seat safety. She became certified as a Child Passenger Safety Technician and went on to start the first Car Seat Recycling Program in Northern California (yes, car seats expire!).
This program is still operating today even after Keri left the county upon receiving her Master's in Public Health from University of New England and moving on. At present, she works for a non-profit, Health Education Council, where they seek to cultivate health and wellbeing in underserved communities.
Keri continues to work on tobacco and smoke-free policy at a regional level, serving Latino Communities in 14 counties in Northern California, and she volunteers with her local Safe Kids Coalition to continue to keep kiddos in our community safe in their car seats.
Where did you attend school?
Sacramento State University, B.S. Health Sciences, Minor Biology, University of New England, Master's in Public Health
What are your career aspirations?
I want to continue to create a healthier environment for communities as a whole.
What brought you to this career path?
I started out majoring in Biology when I "found" public health. What I like about public health is that we are trying to improve the community’s health as a whole – instead of working with individuals, we tackle problems that are affecting many.
Keri Hess at the American Public Health Association (APHA) conference in Denver, CO, presenting her work on forming the first Car Seat Recycling program in Northern California.
Can you tell us about an important lesson you've learned in your career so far?
Working on policy is not for the faint of heart. I have been called names, yelled at, and treated differently for being a young woman in this field. I came face to face with a tobacco company representative for the first time early in my career. I couldn't stop thinking about how this man could go home at the end of the day and feel good about the work he did. Some days are hard, but at the end of the day, I know that I'm fighting the good fight.
Is there a particular person who helped get you to where you are today?
I was a collegiate athlete for a short period of time before getting injured beyond repair. We had a counselor that would recommend classes for us that were taught by professors that were lenient on athletes. I did not like the choices of classes that were recommended to me, so I picked out a class that sounded interesting based on the description It was a biology class on diseases and plagues. The textbook was a short paperback-novel sized book called "Man and Microbes." I read it cover to cover and never missed a class. This professor held my interest and ultimately started shifting my thinking towards public health.
How did you find BPW?
The director of my organization recommended that I join. Being recommended as Health Chair has been the most memorable moment thus far.
Would you like to share how you have evolved since Covid-19 disrupted 'normal' business life?
It was an adjustment to reach the general community at first. I do enjoy working from home, and since I don't have a printer, I've cut back on the paper I use, so it's better for the environment, too!