We grabbed coffee with Director of Strategy + Operations Christina Blanco. After a decade working in the American healthcare system, Christina brings her thoughtful patient care perspective and applies it to her role at Karp Strategies. Christina is instrumental in Karp Strategies’s growth, while being intentional about implementing our DEIB strategy and making sure all staff feel heard. We talked about empathetic leadership, the intersections of public health and consulting, and her love and appreciation for her family. We even got some great wisdom about why everyone should make their own yogurt!
How did you become interested in the public health field?
I am the only daughter in my Hispanic family. Growing up, I was always there for my family when they were sick and had to be their advocate in healthcare settings. I saw the incredible impact healthcare workers had on patients’ lives, which was very inspiring to me. I care very deeply about people, and public health allowed me to reframe my understanding of the issues people face on the surface to the deeper reasons why these issues exist. Supporting people who make the changes we need to see is something I really care about, and that drives me forward.
How does your knowledge of public health inform your approach to organizational management and HR?
A lot of it has to do with empathy and perspective-taking. My knowledge of public health helps me see how to support people to help them do their best. This applies both to our organization and our people; I can build something to help our employees and staff succeed and empower them to do their best.
What inspired you to get into teaching?
When I was at Montclair State University, I started to focus on public health studies. This program left an incredible impression on me—and changed what I saw as the most important things to care about and fight for. It changed who I was as a person and who I would become. This impact that the school, in general, but especially the adjunct faculty, had on me, inspired me to return and teach as an adjunct at Montclair. I was eager to go back and continue that stream of people who would go out and be caring and intentional about their work.
How do you feel that public health and urban planning/consulting intersect?
The essence of public health is education, wellness, and equity–and urban planning as a sector is based on many of the same things. Overall, you want to uplift communities to have thriving businesses, access to affordable housing, and access to jobs and training in new industries. This increases access to many other services—that may not be easy to have—including health insurance, healthier foods, and a better quality of life.
What does the “people-first” approach mean to you working at Karp Strategies?
I think it means making decisions in terms of our systems, especially internally AND externally, as much as we can. It means keeping our people at the center of everything we do because they determine our success. As we work with clients and partners, it also means we’re constantly putting communities first.
What is your most important piece of advice or challenge in implementing Karp Strategy’s DEIB strategy in the workplace?
It’s knowing that it is our responsibility to continuously have DEIB conversations because we’ll never be completely done. Especially when it comes to giving back and caring for our team, we need to have conversations that might make us uncomfortable but also allow us to reach new levels of inclusivity and belonging. I always did DEIB work informally, especially when I was working in patient experience. I had to understand larger structural factors that might affect medication compliance and such. Since coming to Karp Strategies, I have learned even more about how to execute DEIB formally.
What’s gratifying about making your own yogurt?
Honestly, the most gratifying part is not just being able to do something new but having the patience to do something correctly. I am someone who is constantly moving, multitasking, and trying to get the most done in the shortest amount of time. With the yogurt, I didn’t realize what a test of patience it would be. The gratifying part was getting it done and having it be exactly what it was meant to be.
Last TV show I binge-watched: Sweet Tooth on Netflix
Restaurant (delivery) I’d recommend to close friends: Bella Vida in NJ
Book that changed me: Pride & Prejudice; The Highly Sensitive Person
Best concert I’ve ever experienced: N Sync because I got to go backstage and meet them
Movie I’d pay to see again and again: Never Been Kissed
My Heroes are My mom. She is probably the strongest and most selfless person I know. It’s hard to be strong but soft, but she taught me that really well and taught me to have the right priorities of not caring as much about what I looked like but instead being a nice person.