Michelle Williams is a 2016 Graduate Public Service Scholar, healthcare analyst, and mother of two. This month we talked to Michelle about motherhood, work, and taking risks. Happy Mother’s Day!

Making A Change

Prior to pursuing a career in healthcare informatics, Michelle was a news reporter. Her passion for healthcare inspired her to become a doctor, but after several detours she found herself at the University of Michigan learning about patient care at the macro level.

Changing careers is difficult, especially for mothers. Michelle’s advice to moms considering a change: “Ask yourself if you will happy when your children are adults. You sacrificed so much to take care of them, but you also need to make sacrifices that will lead to self-satisfaction.”

She realized, “When [my children] are finished and moved on, and they are at the place they want to be, I should get to the place that I want to be. I can feel complete. Not just as a mother, but as a person.”

Family and School

Seven years of school, one internship, and a Master’s degree in health informatics later–Michelle has a job she loves. But integrating school with family life is a struggle. “School work becomes part of family time even though you don’t plan it,” Michelle said.

The ability to balance family and school was tricky. Michelle remembers “sitting in the doctor’s office trying to finish my homework, while I was waiting for one of my children to have a checkup.” For Michelle, juggling a family, school, and a career takes work. And the ability to survive on very little sleep.

Family and Interning

When most people envision an intern, they picture a 20-year-old fresh-faced recent college graduate starting a career, but internships are essential for anyone changing careers. This can pose a problem for mothers, especially those who cannot afford to work for free, with no benefits like paid leave, or childcare. Michelle thought that she wouldn’t be able to do an internship due to these challenges, but she found the B.A. Rudolph Foundation. “The Foundation not only gave me the opportunity to go D.C., but a network of people that were so encouraging…even now.”

Money and time are not the only barriers facing mothers who want to intern. There is still a stigma about women who go back to work later in life. When Michelle first went back to school, a professor told her that an honors program would not be “suitable for her, especially since she had kids.” Luckily at her internship with Office of the National Coordinator in the Department of Health and Human Services, she did not encounter negative attitudes. In fact, her director gave her the opportunity to present a project to representatives from 20 different states.

Hard Work Pays Off

Two years after her internship, Michelle can finally take a breath. She is a healthcare analyst with Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation, a nonprofit organization under the Michigan Medicine umbrella at the University of Michigan. Even more exciting, her family recently took their first vacation (to Trinidad) in years!

Words of wisdom from Michelle: “When you feel that this is something you want to do, I think you should go for it. Don’t make the children the excuse as to why you can’t do it, make them the reason you should do it.”

One of Michelle’s favorite memories from graduate school is a conversation she had with her son, Isaac. Isaac was curious about what she was doing and wanted to know the difference between a master’s degree and a doctorate. After their conversation, Isaac decided to get a doctorate and become a veterinarian. When a mom prioritizes her career, she leads by example.

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