Valda Boyd Ford, MPH, MS, RN
Valda Boyd Ford is one of America’s leading presenters on effective interpersonal communications, work force performance, diversity initiatives and management, and cultural competency for the rapidly changing demographic landscapes of our times. A member of the National Speakers Association (NSA) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), Valda founded the Center for Human Diversity in 1998 and is Chief Executive Officer.
A Natural Born Storyteller Since the Age of 10
Valda grew up in small town North Carolina. Her mother was a beautician who served women who worked in the local cotton mills and furniture factories. At the age of 10, she was put to work scratching the scalps and meticulously combing the embedded cotton lint out of the hair of the mill worker women while they waited for their turn in her mother’s chair.
As young Valda performed this grueling task in one woman after another, she listened to some of the most incredible tales of life, love, heartache, motherhood, perseverance, degradation, and indomitable triumph of the spirit – and hilarious anecdotes – week after week. She became an inveterate listener – an attribute she claims became one of her greatest professional strengths. By the time she was a teenager, she was a neighborhood story teller who could paint word pictures as vividly as the true-life stories she heard from the beauty shop patrons.
When high school student Valda began openly expressing a desire to attend college, it wasn’t the local school administrators who encouraged her – in fact, they told her to consider more “practical” goals like working in a factory. It was those hard working, rarely formally-educated, beauty shop women who reminded her that her dream was only out of her reach if she allowed others to put it there.
From Registered Nurse to Health Care Entrepreneur to International Speaker
Even though the route was a bit circuitous, getting married and having two sons first, Valda went on to school and earned a degree in nursing. But, she didn’t stop there. Ford has a Bachelor of Science degree from Winston-Salem State University, a Master of Public Health in Health Policy Analysis and Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and her Master of Nursing Administration from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, where she also served on the faculty of the School of Nursing for five years.
Her nursing career took her to Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands and eventually the Caribbean, where she started her own highly successful cardiac, stroke and physical rehabilitation services company. Gradually, she realized that she spent so much time educating and teaching health care, cultural competency and designing community-based programs that it was only natural that she would return to the United States and pursue a new vision that ultimately led to creating the Center for Human Diversity.
Today, she is a much sought after professional presenter on leadership, public health and cultural competency in Saudi Arabia, United States Virgin Islands, China, the Netherlands, Poland, Ghana, Saudi Arabia, Denmark, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and Australia, and 25 states in the United States. She served as Director of Community and Multicultural Affairs at the University of Nebraska Medical Center for seven years and, in 2005 served as the Director of Refugee Initiatives for Unite for Sight – a Doctors Without Borders-type agency with 4,000 volunteers worldwide.
Valda spent months working with Unite for Sight in refugee clinics in Africa and Asia. There she developed partnerships with eye doctors and surgeons to provide sight-restoring cataract surgery to people who would never be able to afford it and took thousands of pairs of eye glasses to the residents of the refugee camps. Valda worked with the teachers at the camps to develop sustainable programs for educating school children about eye safety and good nutrition and creating teams to assess and differentiate visual and learning deficits. She also developed microenterprise programs for the women of the camps.
For her work at the camps she was recognized as Humanitarian of the Year in 2005 and Volunteer of the Year in 2006. In July 2007, she delivered a keynote address at the Global Refugee Relief Conference in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Her topic was Developing Effective Cultural Competency and Preparedness in Refugee Camp Relief Workers.
A Point Person for Change
Valda Boyd Ford is a living library of personal cross-cultural experiences and anecdotal case studies. She has a must-be-seen-to-be-believed repertoire of story-telling, singing and dramatic soliloquy that creates a relaxed intimacy in even the most staid conference settings.
In every new challenge, Valda sees for herself, listens intently, envisions and acts. Her methodology never fails, whether in developing Customer Service in the Real World workshops, Law Enforcement and Cultural Competency, The Paralysis of Political Correctness or any of the dozen other workshops, seminars and presentations that are the hallmark of the Center for Human Diversity. She is a deliverer who now averages at least 50 presentations a year to groups as diverse as health science students to international forums dedicated to policy formulation that improve the health of the most vulnerable groups on the planet.
Finally, but not by any means totally, Valda Boyd Ford served for four years as a member of the Director’s Council of Public Representatives, an advisory group to the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). She traveled to Bethesda, MD, to provide input to the many Institutes and Centers of the NIH. Of particular note is her work with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and her interpretation of the NIH’s Heart Truth Campaign through the Heart and Soul Red Dress Event – an annual event that has moved from a simple educational dinner to address heart disease among women to an annual event hosting 800 women that has crossed state borders, and under her leadership, is now one of the most multicultural Red Dress events held in the USA.