“If you would have asked me ten years ago what my dream job would be, I would have told you it is to run the state cancer control program,” said alumna Charlene Cariou, whose dream became a reality through Idaho’s Department of Health and Welfare.
As the health program manager of the Idaho Comprehensive Cancer Control Program, Cariou oversees statewide cancer prevention programs. Her work encompasses everything from addressing cancer-preventive behaviors and increasing cancer screening to improving quality of life for cancer survivors.
“I get excited to come to work every day because I truly believe that I am able to make a difference in the health of Idahoans.” – Charlene Cariou, Boise State alumna
Cariou’s journey started as an undergraduate in health sciences, where she discovered her passion for public health. Her next step was the master of health science program in the Department of Community and Environmental Health at Boise State. After graduating in 2012, Cariou spent four years working in public health at St. Luke’s Health System before landing at the Department of Health and Welfare.
Now, her daily work is her passion: implementing cancer-prevention programs that yield population-level changes.
“It’s a long game,” Cariou said, “but small accomplishments and big picture thinking keeps me engaged and excited about working in public health.”
Cariou’s work includes addressing cancer-prevention behaviors, increasing the use of cancer screening and improving quality of life for cancer survivors. Areas of focus include sun safety, HPV vaccination and increasing colorectal cancer screening.
Formal partnerships include Idaho’s seven public health districts; Cariou also collaborates with organizations such as the American Cancer Society, Project Filter and the Idaho Immunization Program.
“Community partners are critical to this work,” she said.
When asked about her advice for current students in the Department of Community and Environmental Health, Cariou reflected on the real-world experiences that helped prepare her for professional life.
“Find a professional home,” she advised. “For me that started with the Idaho Public Health Association. It has been a place to continually learn new things, make connections with professionals across the state and country and discover opportunities for personal and professional growth.”
She also encouraged students to explore a range of interests by conducting informational interviews and research on a wide variety of jobs before narrowing their area of focus.
For Cariou, the investment in her education and professional development already has paid off as she is able to impact the regional landscape of cancer prevention.
“I get excited to come to work every day because I truly believe that I am able to make a difference in the health of Idahoans,” she said.