WHERE I WORK: I’m a behavior specialist at Sterling Montessori Academy and Charter School in Morrisville, N.C. I’m also the founder and president of the BlissfulSage Foundation, a nonprofit that operates the Edlin Leslie Sr. Hospice in Belize and partners with cancer- and health-related charities.
WHY I STARTED THE FOUNDATION: My father passed away from prostate cancer in 2007 in Belize. He had to make a painful, six-hour journey by bus to get treatment and care. His dying wish was to establish a hospice so that others wouldn’t suffer the way he did. In his honor, I established the Edlin Leslie Sr. Hospice for terminally ill patients, especially those affected by cancer, in Placencia Village, the small town where I grew up. I also recently launched BEAT Cancer, a clearinghouse of information for cancer patients and their families, and created a skin care line called Belize in You.
MY SOCIAL CHANGE GOALS: It’s my goal to examine the relationship a hospice program has with end-of-life experiences and develop a model for delivering hospice care to cancer patients in southern Belize. I want to leave a legacy of leadership and compassionate care for my children while giving back to my birth country. I also plan to continue to educate the public about the philosophy of care a hospice provides and offer support to cancer patients and their families.
WHY I’M WORKING TO EARN A PHD: This degree is giving me the expertise I need to establish the nonprofit and healthcare programs in partnership with Belize’s Ministry of Health. The research skills I’m gaining are also helping me contribute to the body of literature on cancer care in economically developing countries. Research and data on cancer in Belize are very limited, which is such a tremendous barrier. I hope to become one of the first to publish on this subject.
WHEN I STUDY: I study in the evenings after my kids—ages 8, 11, and 14—go to bed. I also take half a day on the weekend when necessary and study extensively when I travel to Belize every few months.
BEST EXPERIENCE AT WALDEN SO FAR: Participating in the Clinton Global Initiative University meeting in 2012. It taught me practical solutions to many of the existing challenges I face in building partnerships and using social media.
WHAT I TELL OTHERS ABOUT WALDEN: Walden is an institution of integrity that champions making positive contributions to society. I chose the university because it embraces my goals and will equip me with the necessary skills to meet them while I pursue my PhD. What I most appreciate about Walden is that my classes directly and immediately impact my work.
WHAT I PLAN TO DO AFTER GRADUATING: In addition to continuing my work with the nonprofits I’ve founded, I plan to conduct research on cancer in Belize and establish and operate a spa for cancer patients in North Carolina, which will carry my skin care products and help fund the hospice in Belize.