In April 2015, the American Public Health Association (APHA) celebrates its 20th anniversary. In celebration of this milestone, the message of Public Health Week (April 6-12)—and the focus for the foreseeable future—is the Healthiest Nation in One Generation initiative to improve community health in the U.S. With an emphasis on prevention and wellness, the APHA sees outreach and education as keys to this transformation.
Lisa Slavick, who earned her Graduate Certificate in Public Health from Capella University, is excited about this campaign and the role she can play in it. She shares her thoughts on the initiative, her work in public health, and how her Capella degree is helping her make a difference.
Q. What work do you do in public health?
A. This is my 32nd year as a mammographer, and I’ve been in health care management for over 20 years. I’m still very passionate about what I do. I love working with patients, and I love the outreach component. Most of my career I’ve been involved in community outreach and education for breast health, osteoporosis, and the early detection of breast cancer.
Part of what I do now is to provide free screening mammograms to patients who are uninsured or underinsured. I traveled with RAD-AID International to India, where we launched a women’s public health initiative that provides screening mammography, bone density exams, and colposcopies to women in need.
Q. Why are you passionate about public health?
A. In 2002, one of my patients died. Everyone who works in the medical field can remember that one patient—the one who waited too long to get treatment because they didn’t have the means to pay for it. It’s a horrible thing when you can’t afford the basics of health care to be able to prevent or deal with a disease early on. I became a strong advocate after that. I advocated getting a local provider into my town when the nearest one was 70 miles away. I’d beat on people’s doors to get them out for their mammograms.
I know from personal experience how lifestyle choices can affect your health. I used to be a very unhealthy person myself. I think it’s important not only to educate the community on healthy lifestyle choices, but also to provide programs that can help keep people on track. There are so many chronic diseases that can be prevented just by making healthy choices. I really feel I can make a difference with people.
Q. Tell us about your interest and role in the Healthiest Nation in One Generation initiative.
A. I went into health care because I had a passion for serving others, and that hasn’t changed. If anything, it’s gotten stronger over the past 30 years. One of my roles in the Healthiest Nation in One Generation initiative is to educate the community on the importance of screening mammography and early detection of breast cancer.
My other role, stemming from personal experience, is advocating healthy eating habits and exercise. I know how difficult it can be to make healthy choices on a budget when it can seem less expensive in the short term to choose the quick, less-healthy alternative for yourself and your family. Most people today eat their daily allowance of sodium and fat in just one meal! I want to share my knowledge and insight with others and also offer my support as they make the effort to be well.
Q. How will your certificate from Capella help you create this impact?
A. I already had a lot of experience in women’s health, specifically breast health. I wanted to broaden my scope to include other diseases and delve further into health disparities as well, in addition to gaining an understanding of social and behavioral factors that affect lifestyle choices. My certificate expanded my knowledge base and gave me a greater understanding of these public health issues.
I truly believe one person can make a difference. And education is one of the keys to success. As I became a healthier person, I’ve always tried to set an example, for my kids and my family, and for the patients I work with. As a nation, we’re deteriorating, and health care is going to see rapidly increasing costs because of the daily choices we make. I want to help people learn how to make better choices, how to find affordable sources for healthy living.
My degree gives me the background and knowledge I need to continue advocating for healthier lives. I can’t fix the whole world, but if I could just talk to people one-on-one and make a difference, that’s what I want to do.
Learn more about how you can make a difference with a Graduate Certificate in Public Health.