“A leader is someone who stands alongside people and supports them to see the bigger picture,” says alumna Madiha Tariq, MPH ’11. As deputy director for the Arab Community Center for Economic & Social Services for nonprofit Access Community Health, she manages more than 80 team members.
Juggling a large team working on important community issues, Madiha believes it’s better to be a leader than a boss: “As a leader you have to let other people be the boss so they can do their work even better.”
Her actions speak louder than her words, as she was recently awarded the organization’s Exceptional Leadership Award. In the video, her colleagues describe her as passionate and a perfect example of someone who has had a tremendous impact on the company and in health and research.
Madiha was born and raised in Pakistan and came to the United States to finish high school at the United World College in New Mexico. After high school she pursued her undergraduate degree at Middlebury College in Vermont. Her parents urged Madiha to obtain a degree in information technology or computer science, but deep down Madiha always wanted to make a big impact. After the devastation of 9/11, her perspective on life changed. She made up her mind and switched her degree to political science and economics which set her on the path of serving the community and eventually to public health.
Her transition after graduating Middlebury College to Washington, D.C., truly defines Madiha’s “go-getter” personality. Madiha knew she wanted to practice public health in Washington, D.C., and was also entertaining the idea of obtaining her master’s degree from the George Washington University. “I knew it was important to get my foot in the door,” she says.
Madiha did just that by utilizing the university’s alumni network.
All before becoming a GW student, she took initiative and made a trip to the area, scheduled informational meetings with alumni, and attended an event for the Society of International Development at the 18th Street Lounge. After an entire day of meetings and conversations, she ended the evening networking over cocktails which helped land her a job at Abt Associates in Bethesda, Maryland. While there, she made her transition back to school to pursue her master’s degree in public health. After receiving many offers, her decision to attend GW was an easy one. She admired the school’s network, and also the school’s reputation, access to policy, and community engagement. For Madiha “being part of the GW network of alumni and students has been a wonderful experience,” an experience that has included becoming a preceptor for the school.
The action of paying it forward is something Madiha believes in, and she uses her own personal experiences to practice it. After graduating with her master’s degree, Madiha began her career at Access Community Health as an administrative assistant. She says people teased her about taking an administrative type of job since she had her master’s degree, but she believed it was an opportunity to affiliate herself with a great company. She said the position was a way for her to learn the organization while growing into her career. Within five years, she has been promoted multiple times and is currently the deputy director with the organization.
Madiha finds her work in public health rewarding; she enjoys teaching people to advocate for themselves and encourages people to be engaged with their health care and their rights. She may wear many hats, but she does it with a smile on her face and always uses her sense of humor to light up a room. To reiterate what was says in Madiha’s Exceptional Leadership Award video, when faced with a challenge nothing will stand in Madiha’s way.
This story was originally published on the Milken Institute School of Public Health’s website.