How One Millennial Took a Career Leap and Landed in the Director’s Chair


Santrice Martin AHA PhotoSantrice Martin, Sr. Director of Multicultural Initiatives at the American Heart Association, believed she could make an impact moving to a beat that aligned with her unique skills and strengths; so she did. This phenomenal millennial is saving lives – literally -and making bold statements; her favorite quote by Margaret Meed perfectly sums up her beliefs: “Never Doubt that a thoughtful group of committed citizens could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Martin, originally from Pensacola, Florida, attended Florida A&M University where she obtained a degree in Health Care Management with the aspiration to positively impact the health of our communities. With limited career opportunities in Tallahassee, Florida, Santrice took a leap of faith and relocated to the city of Chicago, where the rest is history.

Santrice Martin is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, married to Reynold Martin, and a mother to Karis and Christian Martin.

The Career Goddess Academy caught up with Martin to delve into her life as one of the most influential millennials at the American Heart Association.

How did you get to the American Heart Association?

Great question! After the relocation to the city of Chicago, I learned quickly that to be successful, you have to contribute the work necessary to reach your goals, which meant expanding your network and being open-minded. So, I connected with a few Health Service organizations and through these opportunities obtained a mentor who guided my steps into the non-profit world. After numerous interviews and just as many rejections, I finally received my break with the American Cancer Society due to my tenacity, preparedness, and optimism!

After six years of working with the American Cancer Society in Evanston, Illinois, I explored opportunities to further expand my career in the public health field; I was aware that if I seriously considered building a brand in the non-profit world, my career required entering into the boldness and trendsetting city of Chicago. Therefore, I applied for the Director of Multicultural Initiatives position with the American Heart Association, and soon after the first round interview, the hiring manager pulled me aside and expressed, “You were so great that I don’t need to see anyone else. The position is yours if you choose to accept!” Four years later, I, through the mission of the American Heart Association, have positively impacted the health of our communities, have been awarded numerous community activism accolades, and have been promoted as an emerging leader of the American Heart Association and I’m now the Sr. Director of Multicultural Initiatives for the Chicago Market!

Did you always know that you wanted to work for a non-profit organization? 

Of course not!

While in high school, I participated in a curriculum primarily focused on health service related career opportunities. The high school curriculum was titled “Health Service Academy” and provided a hands-on and in-depth experience into the health care field, including classes focused on medical terminology, public health education, and hospital and clinical services. Upon graduation from high school, I continued on the path of the health services career field with the goal in mind to become a Medical Doctor at Florida A&M University. However, after the first semester resulting in poor academic performance, I immediately changed my major to Health Care Management and continued on to graduate Cum Laude from Florida A&M University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Care Management.

What has been your most rewarding moment at AHA? What has been the highlight of your professional career? 

The most rewarding moment of my career is working with dedicated volunteers who commit to advancing the mission of the American Heart Association which is to build healthier lives free of heart disease and stroke.

Santrice AHA kids CPR heart training

Describe an experience that may have challenged you, stretched you outside of your comfort zone, or really helped you to rise as a leader in your profession? 

The challenge was to take a leap of faith! While working at the American Cancer Society, I had an amazing career that could have resulted in becoming a rising leader within the organization….SOMEDAY! However, I wasn’t interested in awaiting the next cycle in her career to begin, and therefore I took a leap of faith and JUMPED! I decided to leave the American Cancer Society and work part time at a Youth Organization agency. During this time, I was able to create lasting memories of my daughter’s kindergarten year and benefit strongly from the youth that I encountered on a daily basis. While working part-time, I never lost sight of my goal, which was to build a brand in the non-profit world.

Santrice AHA with her peepsWithin a year, I became the Director of Multicultural Initiatives Director of the American Heart Association.

What are the most important skills needed to advance into your industry?

Honestly, at this point in my career, the most important skill is my network!

In addition, effective communication/interpersonal skills, knowledge of present public health issues, and the visibility of personal and organizational brand within the targeted areas.

You were able to climb the ladder in a short period of time. What do you think has helped you to achieve a wealth of success and be recognized for your work in such a short period of time.

  • Dare to be different! If there are two of the same people in the room, only one of you is needed.
  • Know what makes you unique and build your brand!
  • Smile often!

What advice do you have for creating work/life balance or flexibility? 

Become a Planner!!! And always make time for the moments that count!

Create a “To-Do” list that includes both your professional and personal tasks and then do it!  In addition, always make sure that your planning includes your vision!

What advice would you give to others who are seeking to break into the non-profit space and make a lasting impact?

Diversify your skill set! Be open to learning the entire organization rather than a specific departmental role. In order to lead, you must learn first!

Santrice Martin Health Strategies ExcellenceAwards

Key Contributor Award (2008) –American Cancer Society

In recognition of exemplary contribution to the mission and the success of the organization.

PIECES Award for excellent teamwork (2008) –American Cancer Society

In recognition of developing a volunteer recruitment program that stemmed the success of the organization.

Heart Health Champion (2014) – Chicago Housing Authority

In recognition of the personal commitment to increase the heart health of CHA residents.

Goal Achievers Award (2014) – American Heart Association

In recognition of achieving exceptional results that positively impact our communities and our organization.

  • American Heart Association Health Strategies Award of Excellence (2014)
  • American Heart Association Emerging Leader Designee (2014)
  • Chicago Defender Women of Excellence Award (2015)
  • Delta Sigma Theta Echoes of Excellence Award (2015) – Community Activism/Volunteerism

Connect with Santrice on LinkedIn.

If you are seeking a career in healthcare, check out these professional organizations.

National Association of Health Services Executives

The National Association of Health Services Executives (NAHSE) is a non-profit association of Black health care executives founded in 1968 for the purpose of promoting the advancement and development of Black health care leaders, and elevating the quality of health care services rendered to minority and underserved communities.

American College of Health Care Executives

The preeminent professional society for healthcare executives dedicated to improving health.



Charlene Rhinehart

I’m Charlene - International Speaker, Published Writer, & Career Strategist. I help women skip the most common career mistakes, move from fear to confidence, and enhance their professional profile so that they can create a life that is better than their dreams.

11 thoughts on “How One Millennial Took a Career Leap and Landed in the Director’s Chair

  • September 7, 2016 at 9:21 pm

    Great work Santrice

  • September 9, 2016 at 3:05 am

    Awesome Soror Santrice.

  • September 9, 2016 at 11:35 am

    You’re awesome! Thanks Charlene for the article!!!!

  • September 14, 2016 at 5:32 am

    Great to see a classmate from high school doing awesome things!!! Way to go, Santrice!

    • September 15, 2016 at 1:13 pm

      Thanks Glenroy! Santrice is one of our Chicago all-stars and we are lucky to have her in the city.

  • February 10, 2017 at 6:08 pm

    I am writing to you to inquire as to whether you have any jobs or work that I can perform in the fields of Data Entry or Virtual Assistance. I am an American expat presently living in New Delhi, India. I have experience in Data Entry, Virtual Assistance, and I can perform any work that you may require as long as it can be done online or remotely. If you would like to see my resume please let me know and I’ll gladly send it over to you. Or you can check my online resume at my own site at http://www.CoreyCananza.comThank you for your consideration.Warm Regards,Corey Cananza


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