Alumni Spotlight: Derrick Young, MPH17

"Young people have a responsibility to lead our country and move our country forward."

By A. Finn McFarland, MS-HCOM19

"Young people have a responsibility to lead our country and move our country forward." That's according to Derrick Young, MPH17, the new president of the Tufts Public Health and Professional Degree Alumni Association and Executive Director of the nonprofit, The Leadership Brainery. Young came to Tufts from Grambling State University where he was a first generation college student. As an undergraduate, he interned with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and was stationed at the University of Michigan where he organized educational programming about disease prevention while addressing stigma as a U.S. National Minority AIDS Council member. After moving to Boston, he became Membership Chair of Harvard University Center for AIDS Community Advisory Board.

As a Master of Public Health (MPH) candidate at Tufts, Young tackled issues of racism in higher education. As part of his Applied Learning Experience (ALE) he investigated diversity issues within medical schools and helped develop an anti-racism toolkit and policy for the Association for Prevention Teaching and Research. The toolkit is available to medical schools nationwide and includes resources such as readings, websites, and research articles to support health professional in learning how to address systemic racism in their own institutions.

After graduating with his MPH, Young went on to law school where he was one of just two black men in a class of about 250 law students. He decided that learning in an environment with such little diversity and support was not a good fit. In response to this lack of diversity that Young experienced first hand, he withdrew after one semester to launch The Leadership Brainery. His mission was to equip extraordinary young leaders to make positive change by creating a national network of diverse and first-generation college students with the goal of attending top graduate and professional schools. 

Many industries and sectors are struggling to maintain diverse workforces. The Leadership Brainery is working to address the diversity in top graduate and professional schools that are training future industry leaders. Starting spring 2019, The Leadership Brainery is selecting 52 rising college sophomores, one from each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, who have distinguished themselves as young leaders. Over the course of three years, the student leaders will be brought together nine times to receive personal, professional, and leadership development at National Impact Summits. The students will also participate in summer internships and complete local, state, and national projects to bring awareness to issues they are passionate about in their communities. . “As young people, once we get a seat at a table, we can make real change,” Young explains. But such change requires a more diverse leadership network. 

Access to higher education is a common thread between Young’s work with The Brainery Project as well as with the Tufts Public Health and Professional Degree Alumni Association. As association president, Young is working to build a bigger and more impactful scholarship fund for Public Health and Professional Degree students. He is also striving to build a stronger community among Tufts Public Health and Professional Degree alumni by encouraging alumni across the country and world to be ambassadors in their cities. According to Young, "students forget that part of grad school is gaining access to different networks." His hope is that by creating a greater alumni network both nationally and globally, students will have greater access to professional opportunities. His advice to current students is, "Don't limit yourself. Go after what your passions are and break the mold." 

Follow Derrick on Instagram @jr.derrick and visit