Carolyn Mullen

40 Under 40 Class of 2019

Washington, DC

Chief of Government Affairs & Public Relations

Association of State and Territorial Health Officials
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I never want to take my success for granted, and taking time to be grateful is extremely important for me. My goals are to always have a thirst for more knowledge, help those who are beginning their career, and wake up every day excited to work on behalf of my members.

BOLD SOLUTION: Carolyn built a coalition composed of patient groups, physicians, pharmaceutical companies, and government officials to advance the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Act. This bill was ultimately signed into law by President Bush, and as a result of this law, thousands of children’s lives have been saved.

Five Questions for Carolyn

1. Who or what inspired you to enter the field of public health?

My career path wasn’t something I necessarily chose, it was something I fell into. However, my father was in the Public Health Service as a dentist on an Indian reservation, so it is quite possible that he inspired me at an early age before I truly knew the definition of public health.

2. What is one of the most interesting projects you’ve worked on in public health?

Developing the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Act. I started working on this bill at the age of 26 and had to navigate the complexities of the policy and politics. I created a coalition by cold calling organizations and leveraged the support of former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly. Additionally, I worked with former Senators Clinton and Dodd’s office to create a compromise legislation. The most rewarding moment came when the bill was signed into law and I received a tearful thank-you phone call from a parent who had experienced the death of their child from a rare disease.

3. What’s a story or experience that keeps you going, even when you’re feeling challenged?

In general, when I hear from congressional staff that they use ASTHO’s letters or materials to help make decisions on legislation, I know that our hard work means something.

4. As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A dentist or nurse practitioner, never a lobbyist.

5. What are the greatest challenges you face in your public health work or area of focus?

The greatest challenge I face is not having enough staff or time in the day to address all of the challenges in government affairs. At ASTHO we are constantly being asked to weigh in on various legislative proposals and also leverage the support of our members. It creates an environment where I never feel like I am doing enough as a leader but at the same time I want to protect my team from burning out.