1. Tell me about who you are and the work you do.
My name is Dunia Dadi, I am originally from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, but was raised in St. Paul Minnesota. I am currently in the process of getting my PhD degree in the Epidemiology Department at the University of Minnesota, School of Public Health. Before I started school, I worked at Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota, where I was the Data Evaluation and Community Education Manager for a year. In this role, I supported communication and program evaluation systems between our organization and presenters who were trained to spread knowledge about adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), child brain development, and resilience to their communities. My current work as a student is focused on family violence, ACEs, trauma, foster care systems and practices, and system-level health inequities across marginalized populations in the US.
2. What is the most challenging and rewarding aspect of your work?
The most challenging thing about my work is coming to terms with the fact that I can’t solve all the world’s problems, although I wish I could. As a student, it is easy to get lost in trying to answer many public health issues that you are passionate about, but I have realized early on in my career that I wanted to help improve the health outcomes of children and families. The most rewarding aspect of my work is having the opportunity to work alongside state legislators, community members, ACE Curriculum trainers, and parents. I listened and learned about their individual perspectives on how to spread awareness about trauma and help communities lead their own resilience-building strategies. The best part is essentially engaging with the community and working together to address the issues we care about.
3. What is your purpose and how are you using your career/business to fulfill it?
The purpose is simple for me. When you see a problem, you do what you can to solve it. Child abuse is 100% preventable. It is my purpose to work towards safer communities where children and families flourish. I wanted to pursue my PhD to gain the depth of knowledge necessary to become a strong contributor to the field of Epidemiology; and bring light to the barriers that communities face to addressing family violence, adverse childhood experiences, and other health inequities.
4. How did you discover your purpose and what steps do you take to continuously operate in it?
I discovered my purpose when I was completing my Masters in Epidemiology. I worked as a student worker at the Minnesota Department of Health in the family home visiting unit. I was able to collaborate on a project where I created a protocol and crisis response algorithm for home visitors who screen families for intimate partner violence (IPV). After attending a home visitor training on intimate partner violence, almost all 50 of the home visitors in the room, from different counties across Minnesota, said that their agency did not have an IPV screening and response protocol. We made the initiative to fill this gap and use our resources to educate and guide home visitors who bring direct services to vulnerable families on IPV screening and response practices. This was the experience that allowed me to believe that I can set out to identify a gap and work effectively to find a solution that will benefit service workers and families.
5. What does the future look like for you?
In all honesty, I am not very sure what the future holds. However, after I graduate from my doctoral program I plan to collaborate with other researchers, policymakers, service providers, and key stakeholders in the child welfare system about potential steps for reforming existing policies, foster care system practices, and resources to improve family outcomes.