August 27, 2015

COPH hosts first alumni luncheon as part of UAMS reunion

Insightful discussion, good company and distinguished guests made the first Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health alumni reunion luncheon on August 22 a success, sparking discussion about future events to bring alumni together.

Alumni luncheon attendees ( left to right ) Kristy Jones, Dr. Tom Bruce, Liz Gates and Anna Strong

Alumni luncheon attendees (left to right) Kristy Jones, Dr. Tom Bruce, Liz Gates and Anna Strong

The luncheon, held at the College, was nested into the larger UAMS all-college reunion weekend, which was another “first” – for the university. In the past, alumni activities have been only on the college, not institutional, level.

The COPH luncheon was attended by former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, M.D., and her husband, Mr. Oliver Elders, as well as Tom Bruce, M.D., the Dean Pro Tem of the College and former Dean of the UAMS College of Medicine; Jim Raczynski, Ph.D., Founding Dean of the College, and COPH Associate Professor Martha Phillips, Ph.D., MPH, MBA.

C O P H Dean Jim Raczynski P h D, F. A. H. A attending alumni luncheon

Dean Jim Raczynski

Dr. Bruce engaged the alumni and other attendees in a lively discussion about public health and how their public health training has informed their professions. The responses were widely varied, reflective of the diverse nature of public health and the career opportunities in that field.

Among the alumni, who all who earned an MPH from COPH, were a hospital’s executive director for child advocacy and public health, a lawyer who works in health policy, a UAMS biomedical research program manager, and the director of an Arkansas-based community philanthropy organization, who also holds a DrPH in Public Health Leadership from COPH. All credited their public health training as the foundation for their current professional positions.

COPH Alumni luncheon attendees Mr. Oliver Elders, Dr. Joycelyn Elders, Dr. Valerie Reese and Ms. Jennifer Onukwube

(left to right) Mr. Oliver Elders, Dr. Joycelyn Elders, Dr. Valerie Reese and Ms. Jennifer Onukwube

“Public health is a multi-disciplinary field,” Dr. Phillips said. “A strength of public health is being able to bring a lot of different people, a lot of different partners and perspectives to the table to solve problems.”

On that note, Dr. Elders, who worked as a physician and researcher at UAMS before becoming the director of the Arkansas Department of Health, then the U.S. Surgeon General under President Bill Clinton, said her years in public health were some of the most rewarding of her career. The broader purview of public health, which addresses prevention and the societal factors impacting health, potentially impacts the entire population.

“We are talking about healthy people, healthy communities,” Dr. Elders said. “In order to be able to have that, we have got to educate people in how to be healthy. And, you have to change policy in order to have an impact on public health.”

C O P H Alumni luncheon attendees Ms. Anna Strong, Dr. Charlotte Lewellyn-Williams and Ms. Edith Paal

(left to right) Ms. Anna Strong, Dr. Charlotte Lewellyn-Williams and Ms. Edith Paal

“All health is public health,” observed Valerie Reese, M.D., MPH, a UAMS College of Medicine alumna and insurance executive, who attended the COPH luncheon because of her commitment to public health.

Discussions are underway with the College about future events to bring alumni together. All COPH alumni are encouraged to be involved in those discussions or send their comments and suggestions to Lisa Black at ljblack@uams.edu.