What or who inspired you to become a health educator?
I was a 2nd-year undeclared major at Kent State University struggling to find my niche apart from female stereotypes in nursing and teaching. I stumbled on community health education and had great mentors in Drs. Gwen Scott and Joyce Wolonsky. They introduced me to the field and encouraged me to pursue graduate education. Dr. Scott invited me to write lesson plans in her book Learning, Feeling, Doing during my summer before graduate school, which continues to inspire me today to help students jump start their careers.
What is one of your most memorable career highlights?
I did my undergraduate internship with Amigos de las Americas in Paraguay, where I administered polio and other immunizations in very remote villages. Unbeknownst at the time, this program connected me to two SOPHE leaders years later – Diane Allensworth and Cherylee Sherry l! My graduate days at the University of Michigan School of Public Health were other highlights, where I served on the SPH Alumni Board of Governors for 6 years as we built the new school. Advocating for recognition as a distinct occupational classification and helping launch the Health Education Advocacy Summit to advocate for our professional priorities were also proud moments. But, perhaps most memorable was interviewing for the SOPHE CEO job in Little Rock, Arkansas. I have never looked back after being honored with this privilege to serve SOPHE!
Who were/are mentors or significant champions for your career?
I was so lucky to learn from U of MI scholars – Scott Simonds, Rusty Rosenstock, Nan Stout, and later after graduation Noreen Clark. Each of the SOPHE Presidents during the past 22 years also have taught me about honoring the past and asserting leadership in scholarship research to practice, advocacy, and fundraising, especially John Allegrante. I have been privileged to serve with SOPHE staff and student interns over the years who have been well springs for continuous learning, and many DC partners who have helped me navigate the political landscape.
How were you involved in SOPHE or other health education organizations?
Moving to Washington, DC, opened my connections to the National Capital Area SOPHE chapter, where I eventually served as chapter delegate and president. At the same time, I learned so much as an active member of the APHA Public Health Education & Health Promotion Section – serving as Governing & Section Councilor, Secretary, Action Board chair, and eventually APHA Executive Board. Each of these roles not only taught me vital leadership skills, but also immeasurably enriched my connections with other dedicated public health advocates.
What motivated you to donate to SOPHE?
SOPHE has been my mantra for most of my career - days, nights and weekends. I firmly believe in the mission and know there is so much more to be achieved. I proudly stand with my many colleagues who see a brighter world through health education and know there is nothing we can’t achieve in the next 70 years,
What advice would you give new professionals just entering the health education field?
As the band Journey says, “Don’t stop believing!” We have so many tools and resources, and our health education challenge is to keep innovating. However, this is not easy; you will need to give overtime to the causes you really care about. Provide testimony to others why SOPHE Is your professional home and why you care about issues such as health equity. And, don’t neglect face-to-face networking that transcends written hashtags and social media.
Who would you like to donate this page to?
I honor my husband and family – Bill, Ryan and Colleen who sacrificed so much – and all those SOPHE founders and future leaders who carry the torch and are committed to our profession for 7 x 70!!