Sheree Scarlett: Celebrating Diversity and Staying True to Her Roots

Sheree Scarlett

“Self-care isn’t selfish,” says Sheree Scarlett, who works in Employee Health and Wellness Services at MSK. “Listening to your body is key. There may be a day where I just need some me time and other days where I just need to do a little bit of exercise.”

In her role in Employee Health and Wellness Services at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Sheree Scarlett helps to promote the wellness-related resources available to employees, including the recently launched Guided Wellbeing program.

Sheree was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and moved to the United States at 8 years old. Growing up in New York, Sheree considered herself a “Ja-Merican” and shares that her family’s migration from Jamaica to New York City was one of the most impactful memories she has. “My parents did a great job at keeping in touch with our family and culture in Jamaica and made sure that we still went back to visit.”

When asked what it was like to be a child of two worlds, Sheree reflects: “I had a thick accent and had to kind of relearn English.” She goes on to say that she had to work on her pronunciation of “three” (instead of “tree”), and the American spelling of “check” (instead of “cheque”). Fortunately, Sheree was not alone in having to learn about New York culture.

“I had other Jamaican and Haitian friends who could share the experience of the melting pot,” Sheree says. For years, she and her best friend at the time, who was Chinese American, used to swap the school lunches their mothers had packed for them. Exchanging food was just one of the many ways Sheree felt like she “could acclimate, spread my wings, and interact with my friends.”

Ultimately, building happy memories while growing up in New York and making regular trips to visit family in Jamaica contributed to Sheree developing a “bicultural vibe.”

Passion for Creativity

Sheree recalls being good at math in high school and planned to study economics in college. However, during her second year, she decided she wanted to pursue something more creative and ended up earning degrees in marketing. She has a Bachelor of Science from Fordham University and an MBA from Pace University.

Before MSK, Sheree spent more than 10 years working in internal communications and employee engagement. Now, having wrapped up three years at MSK, she has finally found a role that unites her passion for communications with her drive to support MSK employees by ensuring they are aware of and can access the many benefits available to them through Employee Health and Wellness Services.

“I’m excited every day to do what I do,” she says. “All of us, in all our different roles, are pushing the business forward to help cancer patients and the greater mission.”

There is a way to reinvigorate yourself without having to reinvent yourself.
Sheree Scarlett Employee Health and Wellness Services

Support System During the Pandemic

Family continues to be a very important part of Sheree’s life. “My older brother is very protective. He’s my go-to,” she says. She appreciates having her brother as a mentor and values all the advice and support her family has given to help her overcome the challenges of the pandemic.

Being with her family, enjoying game nights, and hearing their words of support — common phrases meant to encourage, like “There is light at the end of the tunnel” and “Think about the roots, not just the branches” — helped her get through the toughest times. Her family also provided a sympathetic ear whenever she simply needed to vent.

New Year, New Me?

Sheree has a different take on the concept of New Year’s resolutions. “There is a way to reinvigorate yourself without having to reinvent yourself,” she explains. Feeling empowered by her female colleagues in Employee Health and Wellness Services, Sheree has learned a lot about taking better care of herself.

“Nutrition and eating healthy has a lot to do with our energy levels. It’s also important to stand up and move our bodies throughout the day,” she says.

Sheree recalls losing track of time and forgetting to eat at the height of the pandemic because she was so engrossed in work. “When we all worked in the office, we knew when it was time to take lunch,” she says. Being at home all the time erased that daily structure. Now, she is much more intentional about carving out time to eat and exercise during the day.

Employee Health & Wellness Services
Our Employee Health and Wellness Services strive to provide the same high standard of care to our employees that we do for our patients.

‘Self-Care Isn’t Selfish’: MSK’s Well-Being Resources Available to All Employees

Commenting on this year’s “Health & Wellness” theme for Black History Month, Sheree strongly believes in the importance of check-ins and mindfulness, especially while working remotely.  

When asked about tips and tricks to stay healthy, Sheree says: “I stand up throughout the day and try to eat healthy. I know that snacking is important, so I prep nutritious meals that will give me the energy to work. I really try not to skip meals.”

Expanding on advice she received from her colleagues, Sheree says: “Self-care isn’t selfish. Listening to your body is key. There may be a day where I just need some me time and other days where I just need to do a little bit of exercise.” Sheree emphasizes the significance of resilience activities and self-care practices that tune in to what your mind and body need to be happy.  

She encourages employees to take advantage of the many wellness resources offered by MSK, including the newly launched Guided Wellbeing portal — a one-stop shop for on-demand courses on nutrition, health, and exercise.

“It features well-being tips based on your motivational styles,” Sheree explains. “There are blog posts, printouts, and even four-week modules to choose from. Whatever your personality, there’s something for you — and all the content is based on employee feedback and tailored to MSK employees.” The portal also offers courses on quitting tobacco and resources to address caregiving needs.

Recognizing Black History Month

“The month of February is a great time to learn about Black history,” says Sheree. There are many opportunities to “learn, vocalize, and make change.”

The disheartening events of 2020, including the murder of George Floyd, inspired many to realize the importance of learning about Black history and what it means to be Black in America today. Sheree points out that recognizing Juneteenth as a national holiday in 2021 was a prime example of that increased awareness.

Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. It has been celebrated by Black Americans and allies since June 19, 1865 — the date when a proclamation delivered by a Union Army general in Texas finally brought an end to slavery.    

When asked for final thoughts about this year’s theme for Black History Month, Sheree adds: “Health and wellness mean something different to everyone. Prioritize helping yourself so you can help everyone else.”

Inclusion & Belonging at Memorial Sloan Kettering
Learn about MSK's commitment to accelerate change and become a more inclusive and diverse institution.