by Laura Valentine | photos by TennesseePhotographs.com
“Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable,” is a Kenyan proverb that speaks to the wisdom of making one stronger by surrounding it with many. When one looks at the life and career of Amna Osman, the newly hired CEO of Nashville CARES, you will clearly see this proverb come to life.
Wisely, Osman recognizes that as she steps into this new and exciting leadership role, she inherits the legacy of and vision for the future of Nashville CARES, to “end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in our community.” Add to this the dizzying effects of being new to the South, new to Nashville, and new to Nashville CARES.
To ground herself and create good work and personal life balance, she is actively seeking to meet, engage, and develop community with peers and kindred spirits alike. Osman already recognizes the depth of commitment the LGBTQ community has demonstrated over the last 34 years to CARES and wants to get to know us better.
To that end, she extends an arms-open-wide invitation to “…help support me in my leadership role to advance Nashville CARES, by reaching out to me. I want to know you. I want to engage with you. I want to build a relationship with you because I’m new to the community. Help me find spaces and places I need to be…to get to know folks to support me and the organization.”
She may be new to Nashville CARES, but in no way is she new to the important work of caring and advocating for those whose lives are impacted by HIV/AIDS. Working toward a degree in psychology, Osman spent her senior year at the United States International University in Kenya, where she held an internship at an HIV/AIDS orphanage. There she witnessed babies born HIV positive being “dropped off” by their parents. Here, the seeds of service were planted, which she would carry, as a recent college graduate and newlywed, to Flint, Michigan.
Her tenure with Wellness AIDS Services, Inc. included positions in Case Management, HIV Prevention, Interim Executive Director, and Executive Director. Osman was tapped by the Board to serve as the Interim for 6 months to either “turn the organization around or transition its clients to another service provider.” She accepted the challenge and was able to orchestrate a successful turn-around of the organization, which still flourishes today.
“Even though I was only 24 years old and had no prior executive leadership experience, I felt a deep obligation to the clients not to shut down,” Osman stated emphatically.
Building on Success
As she experienced success in her professional life, success was mirrored in her personal life too. A wife and now mother of two young sons, Amna earned a Master of Public Administration from the University of Michigan. With greater knowledge, new skillsets, and a growing support network, Amna served as the Director of the Division of Health, Wellness, and Disease Control for Michigan Department of Community Health, and was responsible for operational oversight of the division which consists of Health Disparities Reductions/Minority Health; Sexually Transmitted Diseases; and HIV/AIDS Prevention Education, Care and Treatment; AIDS Drug Assistance Program and the HIV/AIDS Oral Health Program.
With success came accolades, appointments, and additional opportunities to make an impact on vulnerable communities. Osman credits her professional success with not only putting in the hard work but to “coaches and mentors that really supported me.” In these days of growing awareness around privilege and workplace inequities, Osman shares an important personal insight, “I just want to acknowledge that as women we work extra hard to be in seats of leadership but it’s because of the support of so many people that believed in us that it really happens; as women and especially women of color, you’ve worked really hard and proved yourself to get to where you are at, more so than your counterpart colleagues to whom the system has really been supportive and beneficial.”
Building on Community
Now that she’s relocated to Nashville and serves in the pinnacle position at Nashville CARES, I asked Osman what success would look like one year from now, her response and vision was clear. Osman would like to diversify the funding portfolio so that CARES can thrive in a way that is fiscally healthy as well as recruit and retain good talent. “I would also like to position CARES as a diverse, inclusive and equitable organization so it has the best talent to serve the most vulnerable and furthermore, engage the community in a bi-directional exchange where we hear and know the community stories and the community knows and hears ours.”
Personally, Osman would like to complete the work in earning her Ph.D. in Leadership and Change and create a community of professional peers and friends to enrich her life.
“WE NEED VOICES HEARD AT ALL LEVELS AND NEED THE COMMUNITY TO CONTINUE TO PROVIDE FEEDBACK AND RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CARE TO THE LGBT+ COMMUNITY.”Amna Osman, CEO of Nashville Cares
Osman feels as if she’s off to a good start in achieving these goals stating, “I’ve been really impressed with the Board of Nashville CARES. I’ve appreciated the support they’ve given me and their desire to elevate the organization, thinking about the community as a whole and wanting to do the best for this community.”
When asked how the LGBTQ community can be of support to her and Nashville CARES, she was again very clear: “I encourage you to continue to support CARES, not just financially, but with time, expertise, talent, and knowledge in a way that can support and advance the organization and even elevate it in the next year if we truly are going to eliminate HIV in Nashville.”
She also encourages the community to provide ideas around ways to come together and tell our stories and reduce stigma as well as engage in advocacy. “We need voices heard at all levels and need the community to continue to provide feedback and recommendations for care to the LGBT+ community (both healthcare and mental health).”
“I have felt so welcomed in the South, in Nashville, and at Nashville CARES,” said Osman. “Every stakeholder and ambassador that’s affiliated with this organization has been amazing and wonderful and dedicated to the mission and to the people we serve, and I just want to say thank you.”
If you’d like to be a part of the “unbreakable bundle,” reach out today to Amna Osman by phone or email at 615-921-0215 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
NASHVILLE CARES AIDS WALK
Register for NashvilleCARES AIDS Walk on October 5. Visit nashvilleaidswalk.org.
The mission of Nashville CARES is to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Middle Tennessee. With your help, Nashville CARES offers services annually to more than 50,000 Middle Tennesseans at-risk of or living with HIV/AIDS including HIV prevention education to more than 29,000 youth and adults, almost 10,000 FREE confidential HIV tests, and essential support services to 3,400 men, women and children living with the disease. For more information on Nashville CARES visit nashvillecares.org.