Monthly Public Health Consultant Spotlight: Sandra Melstad, MPH

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Each month, I will introduce you to a public health consultant or entrepreneur and they will share their path to self-employment and outline key pieces of advice for aspiring business owners.

Today we welcome Sandra Melstad from Sioux Falls, SD!

1. Please share your educational background and business title/name.

Master of Public Health (MPH)

I am the CEO of SLM Consulting, LLC.

2. Tell us how you entered the field of public health and what your education and work experience was prior to consulting.

I received a Bachelor of Science in Health Promotion and always intended to continue my education but was not sure in what. I initially researched entering the Peace Corps and found programs that offered Master’s International programs where students could receive an MPH and enroll in the Peace Corps. This research process led me to the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Ultimately, I opted to go the traditional MPH route because while the Peace Corps was interesting to me, I was not interested in a two-year commitment if accepted.

That being said, Tulane provided learning opportunities informed by a diverse group of students and faculty, as well as the culture that is New Orleans.  It was a great experience and helped shaped some of my viewpoints today for the better.  

I am currently working on my PhD and hope to continue to expand my reach in the field of public health.

3. When did you start consulting and what were your motivations for pursuing self-employment?

I started consulting by happenstance. Upon graduating from Tulane with my MPH in Community Health, I worked as a Physical Activity Coordinator for a state health department and due to a lack of funding my position was eliminated. From there I worked as a grants coordinator for a university nursing department and had the opportunity to work with the state health department again, however, it would be in a contract capacity. Thus, my consulting career began in April 2012, motivated by the public health work available and opportunities to start my own company and work with established organizations.

4. Who is your ideal client? What services do you offer?

My ideal clients include health departments, nonprofit organizations, health systems, and universities. The services that are offered through SLM Consulting, LLC include grant writing & coordination, program development & implementation, needs assessment & action planning, technical writing & communication, and training & facilitation. All these services support population health improvement, work to achieve health equity, and improve the health of communities where people live, work, learn, and play.

5. Do you have a particular product or service that you’d like to highlight? Tell us all about it!

SLM Consulting is experienced with facilitating needs assessment and improvement planning. It is a comprehensive process that fosters multi-sector collaborations to gather information and collect data about specific issues and populations, prioritizes issues that need to be addressed, and then identifies evidence-based strategies to make an impact. SLM Consulting helps build consensus through this process, collects data using quantitative and qualitative methods, and supports collaborative decision making. This process utilizes my experience with building relationships and evaluation methods to support a comprehensive and quality process that addresses health equity, as well as builds the capacity of persons involved to understand the value of a strategic process.

6. Many of our readers are considering a career as a self-employed public health consultant. What is your best piece of advice for those considering or just starting out in consulting?

There are many lessons I have learned since launching my business that I would have done when starting out, including:

  • Being clear about the values and guiding principles that drive the type of business and services offered

  • Developing a business plan

  • Understanding that owning a business means learning all facets of business (that likely were not learned in school!) For example: accounting, marketing, etc.

However as important as these things are to know, what is equally if not more important is to build and foster networks and relationships with key industry people to establish oneself as a reputable and quality public health consultant. Fostering that network should be done through social media platforms (e.g. LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram), joining professional organizations, and getting involved in your community and beyond. It is important to be a dependable and supportive person in those networks. Relationships are key to building a brand and reputation.

7. How can readers connect with you? Please share links to relevant websites and social media accounts:

Readers can connect with me on my website, blog, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. They can also sign up for my newsletter here.

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