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Public health teams around U.S. chosen for projects to help communities, enhance leadership


Local public health officers in nearly a dozen states have been selected to take part in a Kresge Foundation initiative to enhance their ability to lead in today’s changing health care environment.

Twelve public health officer teams were identified in a nationwide competitive process.

Each team will receive up to $125,000 and technical assistance to implement a project in the community it serves.

Participants in Kresge’s Emerging Leaders in Public Health are:

  • J. Don Adams, Arkansas Department of Health; and Julie Huntley, Miller County local health unit administrator
  • David. S. Chang, Portsmouth (Va.) Health Department; Triona Gateley, public health accreditation board consultant
  • Barbara A. Garcia, San Francisco Department of Public Health; and Tomas Aragon, director of population health
  • Cynthia A. Harding, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health; and Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, medical director
  • Swannie Jett, Florida Department of Health in Seminole County; and Donna Walsh, assistant health officer
  • Rick Kozin, Polk County (Iowa) Health Department; and Juan C. Cadenillas, public health planner
  • Susan Palchick-Silver, Hennepin County (Minn.) Public Health; and Stephanie Abel, manager public health integrated care
  • Charlotte M. Parent, New Orleans Health Department; Christopher Gunther, manager of strategic initiatives
  • Laurence Polsky, Calvert County (Md.) Health Department; and Kirsten Forseth
  • Thomas Schlenker, San Antonio Metropolitan Health District; and Theresa Medina, executive asssistant
  • Joey Smith, Montgomery County (Tenn.) Health Department; Jennifer Smith, health educator
  • Brenda K. Weis, City of New Bedford (Mass.) Health Department; Stephanie Marie Sloan, senior project manager 

The 16-month program is designed to help position public health officers and their agencies to thrive in the midst of health reform.

As the Affordable Care Act shifts the focus from treating illness to maintaining health, there’s new opportunity for public health officials to use their expertise on behalf of their communities, says David Fukuzawa, managing director of Kresge’s Health Program. “This is one way for us to support talented people working in this field and shine a light on what public health officials can contribute.”

Kresge works to expand opportunity for low-income people in America’s cities. Its Health Program works to reduce health disparities among children and adults by addressing conditions that lead to poor health outcomes. Kresge’s Health Program has also invested in leadership development in areas including environmental health, nutrition and access to healthy foods.

Earlier this year, the foundation invited state associations for city and county health officials to nominate local governmental public health leaders to participate in the leadership initiative.

The selected teams include public health officers serving cities or metropolitan areas of more than 125,000 residents, along with individuals identified as emerging leaders from within those officers’ departments.

“Our participants are leaders recognized for devising solutions to community problems and successful in promoting public health policy changes,” says Phyllis Meadows, senior fellow with Kresge’s Health Program. “We’re very pleased with the response.”