Dr. Jeanette Kowalik’s passion for hip hop began in high school. She always loved live music and dance as she was exposed to music and the arts from her father, a jazz and Latinx musician, and her older sister, an early adopter of hip hop. As a teenager, Jeanette experienced an unstable home life and eventually had a child out of high school. Despite the challenges, she had support from her sister, father, son’s father, and his family, to finish college and actualize her career goals in public health. Over the years, Jeanette’s love of hip hop continued to grow as she was able to leverage the power of the movement to inspire and connect to others. As a single mother, Jeanette is highly passionate about youth and serving as a role model to others.
Jeanette began her career at the University of Wisconsin (UW)-Milwaukee and interned in healthcare administration at the City of Milwaukee Health Department (MHD). Jeanette learned early on about the impact of policy and social-ecological impacts on the health of women and youth. Jeanette realized that she needed to increase her ability to serve the community, so she returned to school. She became a Ronald McNair Scholar at UW-Milwaukee. This opportunity provided her with the appropriate training to thrive in graduate school as well as funding. Jeanette attended Northern Illinois University’s Master of Public Health (MPH) program while maintaining full-time employment with the MHD. Post completion of her MPH, Jeanette attended the Management Academy for Public Health at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Shortly after completion of this valuable program, Jeanette began her doctoral program in health sciences at UW-Milwaukee. Her initial focus was infant mortality disparities among African American and Latina teens, but she realized there was a significant lack of information about the public health workforce to serve people of color.
Jeanette completed her coursework while working full-time for the Wauwatosa Health Department and Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee. She also completed her dissertation remotely as Director of STI Surveillance for the Chicago Department of Public Health. This opportunity enabled Jeanette to refine her skills in a large urban area. In the fall of 2014, Jeanette returned to Wisconsin for family obligations. She served as UW-Madison’s Director of Prevention and Campus Health Initiatives prior to her transition to Washington DC. She was very involved in equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives on campus including leading a study about its alcohol culture and the experiences of discrimination among students of color. Since the spring of 2016, Jeanette has worked as a director for a national public health association in DuPont Circle. Jeanette also lives in the district with her son, Nassir, who is preparing to attend college in the spring of 2018.