Take time for yourself every day — Even just waking up 15 minutes earlier to give yourself time to gain your sanity and regroup yourself for the day can make a huge difference.
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Carolyn Salvador.
Carolyn Salvador is the CEO of the Atlanta-based nonprofit Enduring Hearts (enduringhearts.org), the only nonprofit in North America focused on funding innovative research aimed toward increasing the longevity of pediatric heart transplants, improving the quality of life of children living with a new heart and eliminating pediatric heart diseases that may lead to a transplant. Previously Salvador served in the state’s nonprofit community as executive director of the Georgia Child Care Association. From 1999–2008, she was the CEO of Discovery Point Child Center, a nationally recognized early learning center.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
AsI’ve grown my career, I’ve essentially had three separate careers fields. Out of school, I pursued a career in corporate retail, working my way up the ladder in a variety of positions from a buyer to strategic planning and finance for national department stores. I realized that I loved the business aspects of the work but wanted to use those skills and experience for my own benefit. I also became a mom and was working a lot of hours and not getting to see my children, so I wanted to find a career that was going to help me balance both demands. I love children and had done a lot of volunteering with nonprofits, so I pondered careers that involved children. I knew the importance of a high-quality early education, so I decided to dive into entrepreneurship and open a licensed childcare center. I really enjoyed owning the center, working with the families and growing my team. It was incredibly rewarding on many fronts. My love for serving others strengthened and ultimately led me to the nonprofit world as I then began using my entrepreneurship skills to run a nonprofit like a business.
I have always been involved with nonprofit work, and never thought that it would be my ultimate career choice. Every day I feel exhausted by the challenges that face the children our mission serves and motivated by the work we do at Enduring Hearts.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
Early in my tenure as the executive director of Enduring Hearts, I was faced with a tough decision of whether to fund new award that we would promote at a highly visible conference. I was very new to medical research and had sat through the grant reviews intently listening to our team of doctors debate each grant’s merits as I tried to grasp highly technical concepts. What struck me was that while the grants scored high enough to fund, none of the doctors were excited about these projects. I took a bold and unpopular move not to fund a project, but attend the conference and actually announce that we were not recognizing any awardee at that time due to the quality of the grants submitted.
The following year, we received an overabundance of superior grants and awarded two. In addition, a foundation started by one of the senior officers of Facebook was present and saw the quality of the work that we were doing and reached out to partner with us. It goes without saying that you must hold yourself to your own standards, even making those decisions that are not easy. If I was to have given in and funded the award, then Enduring Hearts might not be in the position that it is in today as a viable nonprofit organization.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Sadly, as much as I want to trust people at face value and assume their word is what they mean, I learned quickly that in business you must get everything in writing. Meetings are great and everyone may think that they are on the same page and agree, but always follow-up with an email confirmation of the agreed upon action points and terms of engagement. At 23, I was a buyer for Federated Department Stores and would travel and negotiate with vendors on pricing and margin. I quickly learned to follow-up with something in writing as agreements became very hazy and it cost me a lot of money early on.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Unfortunately, there was not one person, that I turned to for advice but in college I had a career advisor that definitely launched me a direction that I had never thought about. He noticed early on that I was good at multitasking and was able to manage having many jobs at once as I had volunteered to run the career expo for the university. He is the one that suggested I look into corporate retail where my hands would be in many “buckets” and I would be able to work towards completing a variety of tasks versus working towards one large task. This suggestion put me into that environment, which later helped build me into the professional I have become today.
Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
Weare in a race against time to fight organ rejection. Right now, on average a heart transplant lasts just 17 years. And 25 percent of children will face the risk of needing another transplant in the first five years. Enduring Hearts is the only organization dedicated to funding research for promising new treatments, diagnostic tests, and clinical procedures that help eliminate rejection and long-term complications for children living with a new heart.
Sadly, only .001 percent of all clinically funded research has been dedicated to helping kids with heart failure, even though congenital heart defects are the most prevalent birth defect. By the end of this year, we will hit over the $5M in funding mark which is amazing and by driving this underfunded area, we are truly going to impact kids’ lives and help them live longer and have a better quality of life!
We exist to create a world where every child who needs a new heart is able to get one that lasts a lifetime
Can you share your top five“lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
- Take time for yourself every day — Even just waking up 15 minutes earlier to give yourself time to gain your sanity and regroup yourself for the day can make a huge difference.
- Make your to-do list the night before, so you can get into work and get started right away instead of having to take the time to regroup your thoughts before you get started.
- Sleep is your friend! Turn off your screens an hour before you go to sleep to give your brain the time it needs to recharge
- Be an advocate for your own health, make sure you are on top of all of your important health milestones and appointments because no one else will!
- French fries don’t count if you eat them off of someone else’s plate. Never order them yourself!
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Bringing greater awareness to the subject of mental health. I would love to create an open forum for people to be able to talk and share how they are feeling and what they are thinking without having to worry about the existing stigma against mental health. I believe starting these kinds of programs early on would be extremely beneficial to our youth, and that currently there are not nearly enough programs or measures in place to help these people.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- Control what you can control- (I’m a bit of a control freak, I know the serenity prayer by heart- control the “controllables” because you can’t stress about what is outside your purview).
- It’s okay to self-promote! (I’m a confident person, but even today I still feel like my accomplishments should speak for themselves without me having to say anything, but a lot of times you need to remind people what you are doing!)
- Get a mentor and a good networking group (I didn’t do this, and it would have been great to have a network, I was always too busy “working”)
- Never underestimate the power of a face to face connection versus an email, (Real connection and relationships build business)
- Don’t send emails when you are upset (put them in a draft and go back and look at it when you are not heated, watch the tone, things get totally lost in translation in email….pick up the phone if you are upset…do not email!)
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Mental Health. I have been unfortunately exposed to multiple suicides that have closely impacted my family and community. Society does not do enough to support our youth in today’s society. School systems do not have the proper training in place to identify and support kids, and they are often penalized for sharing their feelings and emotions. This simply is wrong and I believe that placing the proper infrastructure into school systems to get this started early would literally save many lives.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
@enduringhearts — Facebook
@EnduringHearts — Twitter
@enduringhearts — Instagram
Thank you for these fantastic insights!