Tiffany Burgess (02PH) always knew she wanted to write a book that both reflected her own life and talked about race. Despite spending much of her education and career in science and medicine, she found time to fulfill this dream. Burgess received a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Hampton University in 2001, came to Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health for her master’s degree and now works full-time as a senior associate at ICF International, a management consulting firm. She rekindled her love for creative writing after taking a publishing and creative writing “Evening at Emory” class in 2007. In August 2016 she released Skin Like Mine, a children’s book about the complexity of race. The book was featured in Essence magazine’s February 2017 issue.
The Emory Wheel spoke with Burgess about her experiences at Emory and her new book. This is an edited transcript.
I’ve been writing since I was six. When I came to Emory, I still had this idea of wanting to publish a book. While I was here, I really did hone [my] technical writing skills. That class helped me flesh out the manuscript I was developing and [I] [learned] more about the publishing process. It was a neat class with a bunch of different folks.
You have to have a balance in life, so creative writing is my outlet. I’m constantly writing about health systems and technical things, but then I get to tap into my creative side.
Writing is a skill every student has to have no matter what direction you’re going. You have to be able to tell your story, in a personal statement or some type of essay, and that needs to be powerful.
Think about what you want to do long-term and really start networking. I wasn’t the best at it initially, [but] networking is huge. It’s very important in any field. You have to be able to sell yourself, open your mouth and introduce yourself to folks and not be obnoxious, but make your presence known.
You have to be open and flexible. Things don’t always go exactly [as planned]. You have to be okay with that.
You’re in this bubble while you’re here, and I was very much a part of that bubble. But when you get outside, you realize that this Emory network is so huge. There are so many people who matriculated here for law school or med school or public health or undergrad, and the alumni network is phenomenal.
Everything just all worked together [at Emory]. I met my friends, I was able to establish a career … There are all these different benefits once you leave that you don’t even think about when you’re 21 or 19 or 18 years old.
Coming out of undergrad, you think everyone at graduate school is so focused and that you’re not going to make any friends. That was not the case for me. There is a group of us who are still very close. We call ourselves the “Emory homies.” We do a lot together and are supportive of one another.
I was blessed to come out of school with some of my closest friends. For me, that was very important because they’ve been my professional and personal cheerleaders. I didn’t just get a professional network through Emory, I also got this personal network.
Correction (3/24/17 at 1 p.m.): The article incorrectly said that Tiffany Burgess graduated from Rollins School of Public Health in 2007. She graduated in 2002.