549374 research-article2014

HEBXXX10.1177/1090198114549374Health Education & BehaviorValerio

Noreen M. Clark: Perspective

Lessons From a Public Health Leader: Noreen Clark’s Approaches to Public Health Practice

Health Education & Behavior 2014, Vol. 41(5) 554­ © 2014 Society for Public Health Education Reprints and permissions: sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/1090198114549374 heb.sagepub.com

Melissa A. Valerio, PhD, MPH1 In October of 1998, I began working on an asthma research study for the then dean of the University of Michigan School of Public Health, Dr. Noreen M. Clark. I had no idea at the time the influence this strong, intelligent, petite, and witty woman would have on my professional and personal life. From Noreen I learned that hard work, dedication, and enjoyment of life are not exclusively distinct but can intermingle through partnerships with people from around the world and all walks of life. Over the years of training and mentoring, Noreen and I met formally and informally (many dinners, drinks, and much laughter) as she shared several of her own approaches to public health practice that I continue to integrate in my own research, advising, and mentoring of future public health practitioners. One such approach was the need to address public health through not only a population focus but also with consideration of the important factors that affect behaviors at the individual and systems levels. We debated the many barriers as well as the opportunities for addressing public health issues, but it was the opportunity and unyielding positive attitude toward change that excited Noreen and put that knowing “twinkle in her eyes.” Those were the opportunities that she believed her students, whether MPH, doctoral, or other, would be prepared to recognize and to undertake as challenges to overcome in public health practice. Noreen also believed and mentored her students to understand that the solution for public health problems should begin with an understanding of the innate skills and coping mechanisms of individuals managing diseases within specific settings (e.g., home, clinic, community). As a mentor, she exposed and challenged students and colleagues to fully integrate rigorous methodologies in the evaluation of behavioral educational interventions. She encouraged me to recognize the importance of employing rigorous methodologies, including randomized controlled designs, when evaluating the efficacy of interventions in order to obtain the evidence necessary to advocate for widespread dissemination. Noreen did not work alone and noted the unique contributions of team members. She worked in partnership with communities, health care practitioners, and academics across public health and other disciplines. One of Noreen’s many talents was her ability to bring together diverse teams to

better address public health issues. This skill extended to the building of the Center for Managing Chronic Disease at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. Noreen in turn encouraged her mentees to maximize partnerships with communities, health care providers, and industry, allowing us to work together to more successfully address major public health concerns. I continue to hear Noreen speak and guide me through a few of her sayings: •• Mentorship—“A true mentor allows the younger tree to get the sun it needs and moves aside making sure the younger tree’s roots can take hold in the ground.” •• Supporting of actions when not in agreement—“If you’re going to do this, let’s do it right!” •• Listening—“Listen to what people do not say.” I still want to pick up the phone or email her with a question, want to ask for her always brutally honest advice, or argue a point with her. I remember running to her office when I received a NIH summary sheet that indicated I would likely receive funding. She jumped up, hugged me, and beamed at the news. I remember telling her, see I told you it was a good idea, and she looked at me still smiling and said, “yes you did and you were right.” On a personal note, Noreen openly invited many to her home and I was one of those who benefitted from those invitations and even lived with her for a few months. She was beyond generous with her time and openness and created opportunities for many of her mentees that we only dreamed about. I for one, would not have been able to achieve or receive the education I did without her support and mentorship. I will forever be grateful that she mentored and guided me through the world of academia as both a student and faculty member. Noreen, you never let me pay for dinner!


University of Texas School of Public Health, San Antonio, TX, USA

Corresponding Author: Melissa A. Valerio, University of Texas School of Public Health, 7411 John Smith Drive, Suite 1100, San Antonio, TX 78229, USA. Email: [email protected]

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Lessons from a public health leader: Noreen Clark's approaches to public health practice.

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