Alumni Profile

Portrait of Fernanda Kuchkarian

Fernanda Kuchkarian

Program: MPH
Graduation Year: 2008
Employer: Philanthropy Miami
Job Title: Executive Director

Fernanda Kuchkarian is the founding Executive Director of PhilanthropyMiami. She has over two decades of experience with community impact and programmatic excellence across the social sector.

She previously served as Director of Programs at the Health Foundation of South Florida where she led the development, management and evaluation of the Foundation’s community investments and related program activities to advance health equity in the region. Since joining the Foundation in 2015 as a Program Officer, she spearheaded creative, data-driven plans to advance the Foundation’s mission resulting in over $15M awarded to non-profit organizations across Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties.

She began her career at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine (UMMSM) where she worked for 11 years on a diversity of public health initiatives, most notably implementing a telehealth research program at the world-renowned Ryder Trauma Center. She also consulted with a start-up telehealth company to provide specialty teleconsultations and education to remote civilian and government medical facilities.

Active in the community, Fernanda serves as a member of several committees and volunteers her time with organizations such as the United Way of Miami-Dade, The Miami Foundation, Thriving Mind South Florida, PEAK Grantmaking, and the Florida Association of Free and Charitable Clinics. She is a recent graduate of the Leadership Miami Program of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. A native of São Paulo, Brazil, Fernanda has lived in South Florida for over 30 years. She holds a B.A. in Anthropology and a Master’s in Public Health from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine as well as a business certificate from the University of Miami Herbert Business School.


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  • What motivated you to study public health?

    As a little girl, I always dreamed of becoming a doctor. It was all I ever thought about and wanted. By the time I got to college and began my pre-med classes, I realized that medicine wasn’t truly where my heart was leading me. I took an Anthropology class, and it broadened my view of the world and humanity. From there, I was exposed to Public Health through the work of one of my professors. His work was focused on understanding how human behavior and risk factors contribute to disease. I knew right then and there that Public Health was what I wanted to study.

  • Why did you choose the University of Miami for your public health degree?

    I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Miami. When it came time to apply to graduate school, I thought it would be a good idea to move away to gain a different life experience. However, the more I investigated the program curriculum at UM, and more specifically the caliber of the faculty- it made more sense to stay in Miami.

  • Describe your career path:

    My career path is a combination of serendipity and willful effort. I was incredibly fortunate to spend the first eleven years of my career at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. I started off as a research assistant at the University of Miami Department of Pediatrics. From there, I moved to a different department to work on a federal substance abuse program evaluation across the state of Florida. I traveled all over the state educating providers on the importance of program evaluation and data collection. Once that project came to an end, I received a phone call to work at the William Lehman Injury Research Center (WLIRC), an internationally recognized research facility located at the Ryder Trauma Center. I spent six years working with an incredible team of researchers and trauma physicians to study and improve the delivery of trauma care by civilian and military clinicians. From there, I moved on to the Health Foundation of South Florida- a regional health funder. I spent almost eight years at the foundation, developing my leadership and management skills. Now I am the Executive Director of a nonprofit organization.

  • How did your degree prepare you for your current position?

    A master’s in public health is an incredibly versatile degree. A degree in public health will sharpen your communication skills so that you can effectively convey complex health information to diverse audiences. You also develop strong data and research analytical skills that you can apply to any job.

  • What is your favorite part of your job?

    In my role as Executive Director, no two days are the same. I get to touch several parts of the organization- from marketing, to programs, finance, and development. The best part of my job is that I get to support nonprofit organizations across Miami-Dade County so that they can do their best work. We are building a community of nonprofit organizations, professionals, and volunteers all working to making Miami a better place to live, work and play.

  • What advice do you have for someone interested in your career path?

    My best piece of advice is to trust yourself and your capabilities. Because the public health field is so broad it can feel overwhelming at times to figure out what direction to take- at least it felt that way for me. Be open to continuously learning and improving your knowledge and skills and seek mentors that can guide you along the way. Networking is important, but you must authentically build connections with people you meet. Find internships or opportunities to volunteer so that you gain real-world experience. You never know who will open doors for you.