“Work That Matters” is a series in which ECS experts discuss their roles and responsibilities and the larger impact they have in the workplace, community, and world. In this installment, we interview Carissa Russo, senior consultant at ECS. Carissa supports the development and implementation of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD)/U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) biennial Suicide Prevention Conference, which promotes a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention among active-duty service members, veterans, and their families.
Q: Tell me a little about your role here at ECS.
A: I am a senior consultant under the PREVENTS contract, which directly supports the implementation of the VA/DoD Suicide Prevention Conference. In my role, I assist the VA project leads with meeting management, execution of conference deliverables, and overall project tracking and reporting. Prior to my role on PREVENTS, I supported the Caregiver Support Program on the Training and Education Workstream.
Q: What is the importance of your work on suicide awareness and prevention for veterans in particular? What impact are you hoping to make?
A: Suicide prevention is important to me because my father struggled with suicidal ideation during his life. I know the impact mental illness has on those suffering as well as their loved ones. Suicide rates among veterans are starting to decline, but we still see thousands of veterans die by suicide every year. I took this opportunity to make an impact among this population who need intervention, with the hope of bringing education to health care providers and the general public which could then translate to better policy and protection for our veterans.
Q: You’ve said you’re a nurse by trade. How has your background influenced your career progression, from nurse to ECS consultant?
A: When I became a nurse, I immediately knew that my passion lay beyond the bedside – that I wanted to help influence the policies, procedures, and systems behind patient care. I transitioned to a nursing management role, gaining a “whole health” understanding of the quality of care patients deserve, before pivoting to the non-profit sector to focus on at-risk populations who needed improved access to care.
Working in the non-profit world, I realized I wanted to pursue my graduate degree in public health and that project management was my ideal career path. Immediately after graduation I led a quality improvement project with the Virginia Department of Corrections before taking a role as a consultant with ERPi, whom ECS acquired in 2021. I’m in a position now to do what I knew I wanted to do years ago: help change the systems underpinning care and care access for the better. And I get to do it by serving a population and a chronic health issue that holds incredible personal significance for me.
Q: How has ECS helped support and empower you in your role?
A: I have had the pleasure to report to three different women at ECS who have been nothing less than supportive. I wake up happy to come to work, appreciate the guidance they have provided me, and feel empowered through my work with each of them. ECS has also championed my continuing education, including getting my Certified Change Management Professional (CCMP) certification and studying Agile software development, with plans to apply for my Project Management Professional (PMP) certification next. Access to these benefits has allowed me to grow my skills and perform better in my role at ECS, but just as importantly it shows the company’s commitment to providing the best possible services and solutions to our clients.
PROUDLY V3 CERTIFIED
ECS is a Virginia Values Veterans (V3) certified organization. We are committed to recruiting, hiring, and retaining veterans for the value they bring to the workforce. Virginia has the fastest growing veteran workforce in the country, and we are now trained on best practices for recruiting and hiring transitioning military members.