Jennifer Conner, DrPH, MPH
MPH/Biostatistics (2004); DrPH/Leadership (2008).
What attracted you to the field of public health?
The prevention aspect of public health.
What is your current job title and place of employment?
Quality Specialist – Health Disparities, Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care.
How would you describe a typical work day?
I lead a project that aims to improve cardiac health in at-risk Arkansas populations. Interventions and activities are organized within four systems (healthcare, faith-based, community-at-large, and municipality). In collaboration with healthcare providers and community partners in Chicot, Desha, Sevier, Hempstead, and Pulaski counties, cardiac health disparity is addressed by (a) increasing knowledge of risk factors and common signs and symptoms of heart attack and stroke and the appropriate needed action; (b) expanding self-management education opportunities to consumers who live in geographic areas with low access to medical care and/or to consumers that lack access to resources for self-management; (c) creating culturally appropriate heart disease and stroke initiatives for minority leaders and advocates; and (d) understanding health literacy issues.
What is your advice for students considering a similar career path?
I have had the great fortune to work across and within each level of the Socio-ecological Model (individual, interpersonal, organizational, community, and policy). Collectively, those experiences allow me to think from a “systems perspective” and truly address social determinants of health. I would encourage any student considering a career in public health to seek out opportunities at each “level of influence” to better understand the total impact public health efforts can have.
What experiences or learning gained at UAMS or elsewhere have you found most beneficial professionally or helped you qualify for what you do?
In academics, we depend a lot on information from textbooks and other reference materials. However, the most valuable information I gained during my DrPH program was not found in a textbook. I learned firsthand the principles of community engagement from my instructors AND from community members that served as faculty for our class. The community members provided humbling experiences and feedback that prepared me to serve in such roles as the director of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio Clinical and Translational Science Award Community Engagement Core, chair for the City of San Antonio Mayor’s Fitness Council Policy Committee, and the project manager for Cardiac Health Disparities at the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care. I applaud the UAMS COPH for including lay faculty to enrich the learning experience and strengthen the curricula with “real world” practica and capstones.
What do you find most rewarding about your work in public health?
The most rewarding part is working with the general public and seeing their genuine appreciation of my efforts to improve their quality of life. I’m often told “thank you” or “you helped so much” or “you may have saved my life” or “you care what happens,” which reassures me that I am making a difference in this world! It may be one patient, one church group, one school district, one community, or one city resolution/policy at a time, but I love what I do and that “one” matters and usually leads to “many” patients, church groups, school districts, communities, policies, and much more over time.