An immigrant story: Michelle Garde ’94 lands top spot at Community Health Care-Tech Startup
We know that our diversity is our strength. A vital component of this diversity comes from our immigrant community. In an effort to recognize and celebrate the immigrant experience, we have created this series of articles entitled “An Immigrant Story”.
Michelle Garde ’94 has been named head of value analysis at Yuvo Health, the first company-backed health tech startup dedicated to community health. “I started my life in Grenada and immigrated to this country when I was 10 years old. It was a big fit for me,” says Garde, a first-generation student who earned her BS at John Jay in Legal Studies and an MPA at New York University. She originally wanted to work in the legal field and changed course to pursue a career in public health. “I made the transition to health care because I saw a need in underserved communities that I knew I could add value to. It’s exciting to be at Yuvo because it’s a company dedicated to helping people through community health centers,” says Garde. “The founding team is all BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and the founder himself was a community health center patient as a child.”
Come to the United States
As a young child, Garde was raised by her grandparents and a large community of extended family. “It was a small island, but there were always a lot of positive influences in my life,” she recalls. “When I came to this country, it was just my immediate family who lived in the Ditmas Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. Everything was different, from the mannerisms to the accents. It was a huge adjustment coming from a Caribbean culture. Growing up, Garde considered becoming a legal advocate and set her sights on John Jay. “The College had an excellent reputation for legal studies and was in a great location,” says Garde. “For me, the first in my immediate family to go to college, you couldn’t do better than that.”
“I could be authentic myself with my group of Caribbean friends at John Jay.” —Michelle Garde ’94
Be at John Jay
One of the first things Garde noticed when she walked onto campus was the large Caribbean population. “It meant something to me to be around people who ate the same food, laughed at similar stories and danced to the same music. I found great solace in these familiar cultural references. I could be myself authentic with my group of Caribbean friends at John Jay,” she says. On campus, Garde’s Caribbean peer network often engaged in detailed discussions about the political, social, educational and economic situation in the United States. United and in their respective Caribbean islands.”These debates framed our relationships with each other and helped us piece together our own narratives as Caribbean immigrants. These are conversations and stories that still influence me.” today.
Transition to public health
After graduating from John Jay, Garde worked as a paralegal and later moved into healthcare funding, inspired by conversations with her John Jay friends. They often spoke about inequities in health care and she was always passionate about the issues faced by underserved communities. “So I decided to get my MPA in public administration and health finance,” she says.
“I learned more about the factors that influence a person’s access to care. I started analyzing and storing data that could influence decisions about health care availability and opportunities. » —Michelle Garde ’94
After earning her master’s degree, Garde got jobs at community centers, database organizations, and well-known companies in the healthcare industry. “With each job, I learned more about the factors that affect a person’s access to care. I started analyzing and curating data that could influence decisions about healthcare availability and opportunity,” says Garde, who has worked at companies such as EmblemHealth, Affinity Health Plan and Visiting Nurse Service of New York. “Over time, I started to think of myself as a storyteller. I was taking data and mapping out what the story might look like if we changed some variables or launched different initiatives for the betterment of a community.
Find the perfect position
Garde was thrilled to join Yuvo Health. “I couldn’t have asked for a better position. I use all my past experiences and help people like me get the health care they need,” she says. In her new role, Garde looks at different data points — like the number of times people see a primary care doctor — and illustrates community concerns to a range of stakeholders involved in community health centers. By creating a data-rich narrative, his team suggests strong solutions, like extending evening hours or developing an urgent care co-op, that could improve the lives of people in underserved communities.
“I use all my past experiences and help people like me get the health care they need. —Michelle Garde ’94
Offer expert advice
Thinking back to his youth at John Jay — and considering current students with similar stalled career plans — Keep to this advice: “Be open to what happens to you. When you think about your “basket” of experiences, look at all of the components. If you’re too focused on one “item” or on a plan for your future, you might be missing out on something you really love. »
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