Amira Adawe2018 Rising Alumni

Amira Adawe

When Amira Adawe emigrated from Somalia to Minnesota in 2000, she brought a life-long interest in serving her community. Today Amira, who has a bachelor’s degree in family social science and a master’s in public health, is the manager of Governor Mark Dayton’s Children’s Cabinet. That’s just her day job, however – her work on skin-lightening practices and chemical exposure in the immigrant and refugee communities has attracted national attention. Amira has raised awareness of the dangers of skin-lightening creams, both from the harmful ingredients such as mercury and from their negative impact on women’s self esteem. Amira hosts a weekly radio show in Somali that reaches 80,000 people worldwide, and her personal outreach and connections have made her a valuable consultant for cities across the U.S.


Manager, Children's Cabinet, Office of Governor Mark Dayton

CEHD Degree

BS Family Social Science, 2007;
Master of Public Health, 2015

Please list any professional accomplishments you wish to mention.

I have conducted a research on Skin-lightening Practices and Chemical Exposure that led to policy and system changes. Since 2011, I have been leading a campaign to combat the skin-lightening practices and chemical exposure in the immigrant and refugee communities in Minnesota and nationwide. In 2016, I was appointed by Governor Mark Dayton to serve on the Governor’s Committee to Advise the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). I am also founding member and co-chair of Somali Health Coalition. The coalition membership is consist of Somali and non-Somali professionals to address the health disparities in the Somali community and also bridging the gap between the public health system and community. Finally, I am founding member of Somali, Latino and Hmong Partnership for Health and Wellness. SoLaHmo is community driven, cultural strengths based initiative to maximize the health of Somali, Latino and Hmong communities Community Based Participatory Action Research (CBPAR).

Please list any past or current volunteer activities.

Board member for Healthy Teen Network. It is a national organization that promotes better health outcome for adolescents and young adults. Board member for Neighborhood House. The organization serves low-income individuals and families in Saint Paul. Member of Humphrey Policy Fellows Alumni board Host of Beauty-Wellness Talk at KALY Radio

Awards or honors from collegiate, professional, or volunteer experiences

School of Public Health Dean’s Scholarship

What professor(s) or course(s) were most influential during your time in CEHD?

All the professors I had at CEHD were great and helpful. Especially Jill Trites who was my first professor at the University of Minnesota through the General College. Catherine Solheim was also another professor who was influential and mentor. My first exposure to Community-Based Participatory Research was through the research internship I did with Dr. Solheim. Dr. William Goodman was amazing academic advisor.

What was the impact and benefit of your educational experience in CEHD?

My undergraduate degree in Family Social Science gave me exposure to the human service field and helped me understand how approaching whole family is important to improving their well-being.

What is your favorite memory from the University of Minnesota?

The support and guidance I got from the faculty. Some of the professors are still my mentors.

Who has inspired you the most during your career?

My mother inspired me; she was a nurse-midwife and public health leader. I have always looked up to her and wanted to pursue career in public health.

What skills are important to succeed as an emerging professional today?

Effective communications that help you build relationships. Join professional networks during college and find mentors in the field you are interested. Be resilient and focus on your personal and professional growth.

What are your hobbies?

I go for long walks, have tea with friends and do outreach in the community.

How do others describe you?

Hard-worker, go-getter, inspiring and passionate.

How do you describe yourself?

Compassionate, respectful, hard-worker, caring and an advocate.

What's a good book you'd recommend to others?

Mountains Beyond Mountains; Tracy Kidder. This book is about the life of Paul Farmer, A great physician and public health leader who is addressing health inequity around the world

If you could have coffee with anyone from history, who would it be?

Mohamed Ibrahim Warsame (Hadraawi); a Somali poet and songwriter.

What gets you excited about work?

My passion for public health and taking part of public policy processes to improve health outcomes for communities.

Outside of your job, how do you grow professionally?

Attend conferences, professional development workshops, network, reading, traveling and volunteering..