Caitlin Pallai, Media Relations Specialist, Essentia Health

Written by: Brady Drake

Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

“I grew up in Sequim, WA out on the Olympic Peninsula. I graduated from Gonzaga University with a writing-focused bachelor’s degree in English. I moved to Williston in 2015 and began my career in higher education. I worked at Williston State College for several years before I transitioned to municipal government and accepted a communications role with the City of Williston in 2020.

I moved to Fargo in the summer of 2022 and a little over seven months later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. With no family history or genetic markers, my “why” is unclear. A silver lining though—I was in a place with excellent access to quality care. I am now a breast cancer survivor who continues to love her cat, Scout and has even more houseplants. I’ve been curling since 2016 and enjoy traveling, writing, and spending time with friends.

I am a media relations specialist for Essentia Health and am responsible for our west market, from Bismarck to Walker. I coordinate with the media to organize interviews with our providers and staff, and I write about various health topics and patient stories for our online newsroom and area magazines. I hope to make a healthy difference in people’s lives through my words.

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why? Who inspires you?

Most recently, I’ve had an extensive support system throughout my cancer journey. This includes my family, friends, coworkers, and other cancer survivors. This support helped me get through every day. My parents in particular have continued to show up for me in so many different ways and helped me become the woman I am.

I am inspired by anyone else who has been impacted by breast cancer. It takes a lot of mental and physical energy to move through each day, and to those who continue to raise families and show up for themselves and their communities despite this disease you are inspiring.

What drives you?

As an achiever and learner, I have an internal drive to keep pursuing new ideas, achievements, and challenges. Despite being more of an introvert, I tend to seek opportunities every year that get me out of my comfort zone. This is where personal and professional growth happens.

What do you think can be improved in our business community?

I think it’s important that our business community is always looking for opportunities to practice environmental stewardship in their practices and services, and when gathering and hosting events. I would like to see continued support of our small businesses, especially those owned and operated by younger people and New Americans, and more women in leadership roles.

What are some important life lessons you have learned?

Life can change in an instant. No job is worth your mental health. Trust your gut. Let go of the little things and try not to take things personally. No feeling is final. It’s okay to say no.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I’m not looking that far into the future right now. I’m living day-to-day and being as present and intentional as I can be. I can only hope that I am happy and healthy in 10 years.

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership Program?

  • In no particular order, I hope to:
  • Improve my skills in conflict management, communication, and public speaking.
  • Further develop my personal brand of leadership.
  • Connect with other motivated women personally and professionally.
  • Be challenged, learn from others, and gain a better understanding of our community. And hopefully inspire other women to apply to this program.

Tell us about 1-2 books, podcasts, or professional development experiences that have changed the way you view leadership.

“More than a Body” by Dr. Lindsey Kite and Dr. Lexie Kite is about how as women, our relationship with our bodies is often complicated. In a beauty-obsessed world, we believe our worth is tied up in how we look. This book focuses on a framework of body image resilience and reconnecting with your whole self. Good leaders respect and value others and should do the same for themselves. As the saying goes, lead by example.

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Brady is the Editorial Director at Spotlight Media in Fargo, ND.