Andrea Stubbs, administrative director of the HPV Cancer Prevention Program, learned at a young age that she was more suited for teaching and raising awareness for disease prevention than she was for more clinical work. This is part of an ongoing series. 

What key event shaped your career?

The human body is an awesome and divine machine designed to heal itself, but sometimes assistance is needed from scientific discoveries. I always believed that I would be one of those practitioners who care for people and help them recover from devastating diseases — that is, until I was in my college critical care clinical rotation on the cardiac wing. As a student, I loved taking patient histories and talking with patients about their lives before illness. However, on more than a few occasions, I would be casually talking with patients and they would go into cardiac arrest, literally mid-sentence. The clinical team and all those qualified to assist would work frantically to help save their lives, but to no avail. Those moments would haunt me and fueled my desire to try and teach people how to prevent the onset of disease and create the necessary infrastructures to support healthy living.

What personal skills have you transferred to your job?

I first came to St. Jude 14 years ago and began galvanizing community members to come together and develop a prevention plan on reducing youth HIV rates and raise community awareness for the future of HIV prevention modalities. Some would say that the hardest part of this process is reaching out to people, either by phone or in person, and creating opportunities for them to stay engaged in the coalition-building process. Mobilizing the community was a daunting task, but I soon realized that it required similar skills I used in my personal life. I am that friend, that woman, that family member that makes purposeful connections to help people grow and develop. I quickly realized that my gift of being a connector was naturally spilling over into my work. I couldn’t have been more excited about that. I found my niche, collaborating with local and state health departments, schools, community- and faith-based groups and so many others, to do the hard, hard work of creating new policies, practices and programs to address youth HIV acquisition and transmission. I plan to use those same skills and work experiences to help do the same for the HPV Cancer Prevention Program in my new role as the administrative director.

What do you know now that you wish you had known earlier?

While pursuing my studies in college, I found myself a bit confused, hurt and bruised by the politics and sometimes discriminatory practices that came with the allied health programs. I personalized some of the comments and maltreatment. As I have become older and wiser, I realized that the positive affirming words that my widowed mom, teachers, mentors, friends and close relatives would say to me was a much better narrative to digest. I decided to push forward and never take “no” or “you are not good enough” for an answer. This mentality helped me navigate and successfully build the HIV Community Outreach Program. I simply did not take no for an answer and always strategized about how the no could become a maybe and eventually a yes.