North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services
Dai Tworek thinks about the big picture. Throughout her career, she’s gravitated toward roles that promote individual health and large-scale change.
Tworek, who was born in a re-education camp in Vietnam, says that instinct stems from her childhood. She listened carefully to the stories her father would tell her about politics and government.
“We were very poor and did not have a lot. My experience taught me life lessons about generosity, sacrifice, and possessions,” she says. “I learned firsthand that you don’t have to have ‘things’ to help others.”
From Provider to Administrator
Those early lessons encouraged Tworek to pursue a career in nursing. As Tworek’s career progressed, she realized she could broaden her impact and help more people by teaching and training new nurses. She shifted her focus from bedside care to administration, eventually joining the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) as a facility surveyor compliance officer.
“It is my honor to advocate for the residents, the patients and the family members in DHHS facilities,” she says. “My role is to ensure facilities are doing what they are supposed to do in order to keep residents and patients safe. That is the reason why I am pursuing a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree.”
While she initially considered other graduate paths, including law, Tworek ultimately decided that public administration was the best fit. Determining where to earn her MPA was the easy part.
“I’m a huge Carolina fan,” she says. “I was so excited when I got into the program. It was my dream come true.”
Understanding the “Why”
As a student, Tworek is learning more about the administrative structure of her agency. It’s the kind of practical knowledge she uses at work every day.
“I have gained an understanding of why we do the things that we do,” she says. “With advanced knowledge of decision making, transparency, and communication, I can reinforce and coach my management team on the principles I’ve learned thus far.”
As a health care professional, Tworek appreciates the versatile skill sets her MPA program emphasizes.
“Health care is one of society’s ‘wicked’ problems,” she says. “A health care degree alone isn’t enough to solve or understand the complex challenges we face in this field.”
The online format also gives Tworek the flexibility she needs to keep working—and she couldn’t be happier with her choice.
“I appreciate the 1:1 attention from the program to the classroom, the networking, the support, and nice people,” she says. “There are so many opportunities to get involved and engaged. Some of those experiences have turned into lasting friendships.”
In the years to come, Tworek hopes to broaden her impact even more. She also wants to return to her homeland.
“If God is willing, one of my goals is going back to Vietnam and run a government over there,” she says.
“Five years from now, I can see myself successfully transitioning and running a local government or a state government.”
With a UNC-Chapel Hill MPA, Tworek’s short- and long-term goals are within reach—and she’s ready for the challenge.