ACPHS In The News

Grad Made a Change to Make a Difference

Kaylee White and Al Cardillo review a publication at the HCA office in Albany
February 27, 2023

Back in high school in the small town of Homer, Cortland County, Kaylee White ’22 never imagined she’d be where she is now – at work a half mile from the state Capitol, watching the legislative session unfold, waiting to see if the policy proposals she has helped write will make their way into law.

The 21-year-old White, who graduated from ACPHS in December, entered the College intending to become a physician’s assistant.  She loved the idea of working in healthcare but did not want the demands of being a doctor. She did not consider healthcare advocacy because she did not know that it was a thing.

Now, she’s an associate for public health and policy at the Home Care Association of New York State, which urges state government leaders to support improvements to health care in people’s homes. She’s most recently the co-author of two reports on healthcare collaboration submitted to Gov. Kathy Hochul.

“Every day really feels like a dream, like I'm living in some fantasy,” White said. “All the support that we get back constantly reminds me how meaningful the work that we do here is and how many people we really are touching.”

White’s thoughts about her career started turning in Spring 2020. Preparing for her eventual goal of enrolling in PA school, she got a job in April of that year as a certified nursing assistant at a nursing home. COVID-19 cases and deaths were surging, and nursing homes were among the hardest hit; the effectiveness of the facilities’ responses varied widely.

That front-row seat during the historic pandemic made White question if she was best suited in a clinical setting. But she stuck out the CNA work for more than a year, putting in significant hours over the summers.

Meanwhile, she was, in her words, “falling in love with public health,” particularly the Introduction to Health Systems class she took in Spring 2021 with Al Cardillo, an adjunct faculty member who is president of HCA. She found she was willing to go above and beyond the class requirements because she was so engaged in the material. She was getting answers to a question that had long puzzled her: why is the health system the way it is?

The contrast between how she felt at her job versus in her class with Cardillo brought a more personal question into focus, White said: “Do I want to work in the problems, or do I want to help solve the problems?”

The answer was the latter, and White showed real aptitude for public health.

“I realized when you find a subject that you care about, you’ll be good at it,” White said. “I was suddenly a 4.0 student.”

Even legislative veterans were impressed with her work early on, Cardillo said. For her capstone project during her last semester, White wrote a legislative proposal to create a new hospital discharge planning system. Cardillo liked it so much that he shared it with influential staff working with the state Assembly’s Health Committee. They liked it too and agreed to meet with White and Cardillo.

“She’s fantastic, her work ethic is unparalleled,” Cardillo said of White, who has been working full-time at HCA since last May, even through her final semester at ACPHS.

“She’s really looking to have a positive influence in the world using her background.”