Kumkum Amin

With JSI since 1992

kumkumamin

Associate Director, JSI Research and Training

How did you find your way to JSI?

The short answer is through the back door. I like to travel but not to be a tourist and was looking for a job that would take me to Africa, not necessarily to live there but to get to know it professionally. Something in health or education I thought might be interesting entry points, though I knew nothing about either. Not knowing hadn’t stopped me from consulting on diverse topics with a broad range of industries while at Bain & Company, so why put the brakes on now?

How did you did you start your career here?

As I researched the public health field, which seemed just as closed to outsiders as venture capital without the payoff, I was advised that JSI is where I should start my search since the president had an MBA and might be sympathetic to my (lack of) credentials. I joined the Marketing Services division (now defunct) amidst little fanfare, bouncing from office to office until all the employees were back from travels and there was no recourse but to give me a permanent desk and chair.

What kind of work did you start out with?

My first assignment was with the Brooklyn Community Health Center to increase demand for and access to services by low-income residents of the Fort Green area. As I pored over the reports in preparation for a site visit I began to marshal arguments in favor of getting the client out of what was clearly a “dog” business— business school parlance for an operation that is best jettisoned. It was only then that it dawned on me that this was indeed the business I had signed up to support.

“My appreciation for the complexities of working in public health, especially for those on the front lines running health ministries and nongovernmental organizations, has grown significantly.”

What do you like about working in public health?

My appreciation for the complexities of working in public health, especially for those on the frontlines running health ministries and nongovernmental organizations, has grown significantly. Its multidisciplinary messiness attracts some quite smart, goofy, and creative people to JSI, all of whom contribute substantially to the enjoyment I derive from my work life and from among whom I have made some exceptional friendships.

What places have you traveled to for work?

Since 2004, when I joined the Boston International Group, I have had the privilege of living in Palestine and Uganda, and traveling on assignment to almost twenty countries, several of which were never on my radar.

What do you like to do outside of work?

Along the way I received an MFA in writing from Vermont College, which has graduated two former JSI staff and a JSI spouse. Between travel and assignments I’ve published two stories and I’m working toward a novella and a collection of short fiction.

A Project to Remember

The Palestine Hanan Maternal, Child Health and Nutrition project (2005-2008) was one that I will never forget, as much for the work we accomplished under very difficult circumstances-the local organizations, clinics, and hospitals we worked with increased knowledge and improved healthy practices of communities-as for the many lessons I learned about the resilience of human beings and the myriad ways in which we cope. It was truly exciting when a Hebron woman who had delivered a baby some days earlier called her clinic to schedule a postpartum checkup. “No, nothing is wrong,” she told the concerned doctor. “I’ve been told by my community health worker that I must have a routine check six days after delivery.” The story of women taking the initiative, changing traditional practices, and influencing their mothers-in-law and providers had increasingly become the norm.

One Response to Kumkum Amin

  1. Rami Habash says:

    I was great pleasure for me to work with you during JS project in West Bank. I learned a lot from you.

    Hope you the best ever

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