Carolyn Agurcia-Parker, DrPH, is the project coordinator for the Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (MID) and the Therapeutics and Pharmacology (TAP) programs at the MD Anderson UTHealth Houston Graduate School. Her dedication to the GSBS students and her ability to support students not only academically, but mentally, has played a big part in fostering a community of happy, healthy people.
What do you do on the day-to-day as a project coordinator?
In general, there are two arms to my day-to-day work. I support the program director in implementing their direction of the program from organizing and executing retreats to facilitating program events and processing awards for students. But most importantly, I help the students in each program. The support to students varies from fielding GSBS questions, helping them get reimbursed for travel and other items, and to just being a present listener and supporter. I really appreciate this part of the job because I get to know each student. They are a wonderful, ambitious, and definitely an intelligent group of students.
Are there any special projects you’re working on?
We are working on providing wellness activities for students. While they are being intellectually prepared for their careers, we want to ensure their mental health is supported as well. It’s important for our students to be open to all the wonderful things that will come their way throughout their careers, not only academically, but personally.
What most excites you about working at the Graduate School?
I love every aspect of it! First, the staff is the kindest group ever. Everyone is genuinely focused on making sure that each student gets the support they need, which makes the GSBS an inspirational place to work. It sounds cheesy, but it is true. The GSBS is a very caring and supportive environment at every level.
What path led you to your role at the GSBS?
My professional life has evolved greatly, even before I received my DrPH. I’ve worked in psychiatric hospitals and clinics and performed statistical research for years (which I really love). I have presented at conferences, worked at UTHealth Houston School of Public Health doing incredible school-based health promotion programs throughout Texas, and even continue to also work as a community-based program evaluator around my time at the GSBS. I’ve now been in higher education administration at the GSBS for almost three years. Whew!
What do you like to do outside of work?
I enjoy hanging out with my kids (which keeps me really busy), watching movies, and cooking. I love cooking without a recipe on hand; just creating meals by smell and taste is how I like to do it. You can find me whipping up my own versions of arroz con pollo or jambalaya as a comforting dinner for my family!
What skills in your skillset do you find most valuable in your work?
I can problem solve and pivot pretty quickly, which is usually needed on a day-to-day basis. I also feel that being approachable and able to communicate with anyone is essential to the role.
Do you have a favorite memory at the GSBS so far?
I just enjoy getting to know everyone. I love engaging in conversations and listening to everyone’s stories. My favorite memories always involve getting to know everyone else!