Getting cozy with...

Hildy Fong: Global Health Leader and Advocate

At Slumbr, we love meeting people who passionately pursue and find meaning in their work -- without sacrificing sleep.

We’re happy to introduce Hildy Fong, a leader and educator improving public health globally. A native of North Carolina, Hildy graduated from Johns Hopkins University before hopping around the world, from D.C. to China, exploring exciting opportunities in the public relations world to Capitol Hill to the World Health Organization. Hildy finally “settled down” to earn her PhD in Asia. She and her husband Shaun now call the Bay Area home, where Hildy works as Executive Director of the UC Berkeley Center for Global Public Health to support the health of vulnerable communities. A music lover, you’ll often find Hildy at the symphony or singing jazz. And as a woman who practices self-care, she’s managed to find balance and wellbeing  -- be it with yoga, running or sometimes indulging with a coffee and croissant.  

We asked Hildy to share her advice about success, living well and sleep! Here’s Hildy in her own words.

What do you wish you could tell your younger self?
I would tell her not to be so hard on herself, and to not care so much about what other people think. I would also tell her to have more fun, that it’s okay to learn to fail, and to nourish the innate gifts and talents she has -- that is achievement (it’s not just what society tells you is achievement), and that will help her thrive. I still have to remind myself of this some days!

What’s cool about your job?
The favorite part of my job is being able to be creative and ideate things -- to think big, and “connect the dots” so to speak. I love meeting with people from all walks of life with different goals, motivations, and ideas – and thinking of how we can weave all these things together, to create something new and exciting, to improve humanity. The whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts, whether it is addressing the Zika virus, child malnutrition, improving maternal mortality, or improving systems for clean water and air. I am truly passionate about elevating the potential of others – students, faculty, our partners and collaborators -- that is what keeps me going.

What’s your best advice for keeping healthy and well?
To be healthy and well, you have an obligation to be your best self. So, celebrate yourself and live every day to the fullest. Whatever you do, do it for yourself too, because that’s when you can be your best for others. Set goals (and boundaries). Find what gives you peace and happiness; and keep doing that. I try to find balance, though it’s hard sometimes. I try to eat well, exercise a few times a week, surround myself with things and people that I love.

What's the craziest thing you've tried for health and wellness?
I was never a runner or an athlete, but a couple years ago I thought it would be cool to train for a half marathon. Not crazy for most, but pretty out of the ordinary for me and my hectic schedule. So I’ve done a couple half marathons in the last year or so. For one of them, my husband (to-be at the time) and I woke up every Saturday morning at 7:00AM for about 3 months to build up mileage, and condition ourselves. It was so physically challenging, but also immensely gratifying. Also, you have to really eat well to get through the week, and go to sleep early, or you’ll just crash at some point. (It ended up being part of his grand scheme of surprise proposing to me at the Havana marathon in Cuba, so it was definitely way worth it in the end!)

What's the most unique wellness trend that's surprisingly worked for you?
Hot yoga. Namaste!

If you had an extra hour in the day solely for your health and wellness, what would you do?
I’d probably just lay in bed and daydream.

What's the hardest thing you've had to do or give up for your health?
I have a true love-hate relationship with the notion of health and wellness, simply because this world inundates our minds with so much information…some of it good, some of it trash. Every time you read the news, (as a woman, especially) it’s like there’s something screaming at you to be the new & improved you. Lose weight, be fit, eat perfect. I think the hardest thing I’ve had to do is filter out that noise, and to pay attention to what I really need.

How does sleep fit into your life?
I have to have at least 7 hours of sleep a night (8 optimal), or I just don’t function 100%. Some people don’t need a lot of sleep, but I do! Clean sheets, comfy pillows and a nice, cozy bed is critical for my well-being.

What are your best tips for prioritizing sleep?
I like having a routine, and unwinding before bed – by reading, no noise, turning the lights down, etc. My days are usually so busy that I need that time to just let it all go. I don’t drink caffeine after 2pm or my sleep gets wonky; and I like taking a shower in the evenings to relax.