A $1.5 million gift announced Thursday will help Kansas University hire leaders for its planned School of Public Health.
The gift will come from the Kansas Health Foundation, a private philanthropy organization based in Wichita.
It will serve as a “lead component” in KU Endowment’s effort to raise funds to recruit a dean and other leaders for the new school, endowment spokeswoman Lisa Scheller said.
The new School of Public Health, the formation of which was approved by the Kansas Board of Regents in 2010, is planned to span KU’s campuses in Lawrence, Overland Park, Wichita, Salina and Kansas City, Kan. It will also spur collaboration among other Regents institutions and public health agencies throughout the state, according to a release.
In that release, KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said the new school, and the gift from the Kansas Health Foundation, would help residents across the state.
“KU’s School of Public Health will strengthen the public health workforce statewide and give communities the research and guidance they need to improve the lives of their residents,” Gray-Little said. “These benefits will be statewide, and benefit Kansans wherever they live.”
The donation is part of KU Endowment’s $1.2 billion “Far Above” fundraising campaign.
Two years ago, the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department took on its first student intern.
It was such a success that the department decided to grow its internship program, and this semester, it has five full-time students — the most its ever taken on.
“The more we gained experience and saw the very high capabilities of what they could do for us, we decided there could be ways we could integrate them into the work that we needed to have done,” said Charlotte Marthaler, assistant director.
Meanwhile, the students receive hands-on experience and are exposed to the many facets that fall under the health department, which include child care licensing, clinic services, inspecting septic systems, emergency response and promoting nutrition.
“I was surprised by how much the health department does. I think a lot of times people think that it’s just kind of immunizations and that kind of work,” said Rebecca Lo, of Coffeyville, who was the department’s first intern. She’s now pursuing a master’s degree in public health at Columbia University in New York City and hopes someday to work in a health department.
As an intern, she was given the task of meeting with all of the department’s volunteers and finding out if the information they had on record was up-to-date and accurate, especially on their training requirements.
She also created a video and wrote stories about why the health department supported a new Complete Streets policy in Lawrence. That policy would ensure that transportation planners and engineers design and operate roads with all users — bicyclists, pedestrians and people with disabilities — in mind.
“I felt like they gave me really challenging tasks, but they were good about mentoring and providing guidance. When I left, I just felt that I had really grown as a young professional,” Lo said.
Charlie Bryan, community health planner, oversees the internship program along with Marthaler. They said most of the students come from Kansas University, but some come from other parts of the state and country. The students typically are earning credit hours to graduate, but a few volunteer. So far, they’ve had 16.
Bryan said for the first four weeks, the interns are introduced to all of the areas within the health department, and they take the training required to become an emergency responder. Then, the students can pick what areas they would like to work in.
Last week, five interns sat around a table and listened to Kim Ens talk about the department’s clinical services, which range from HIV testing to family planning.
Stephanie Dawson said she’s leaning toward a career in epidemiology but is leaving her options open.
“The first lady has a huge child obesity thing going on and everyone’s realizing that we have to make some big changes in health,” Dawson said. “The Affordable Care Act is a big deal right now. So, it is an interesting field.”
The other interns said they were interested in working in the areas of nutrition, physical activity, nursing and emergency preparedness.
Marthaler said the health department is committed to growing the next generation of public health workers because two-thirds of the country’s local health department leaders are older than 50 years.
“We believe that best way to get young people excited about careers in public health is to give them an opportunity to experience the work,” she said. “Even if a student’s career path leads them to working for an employer-based wellness program or in a clinical setting, for example, we win because these new workers go to those jobs with greater knowledge of how local public health impacts the entire community.”
Last spring, two interns worked on getting Douglas County residents to fill out the health department’s Community Concerns Survey, which was used to set health priorities. The health department had hoped residents would participate in an online survey, but the response was much lower than expected. So, the interns dropped off paper forms at locations throughout the community and then collected about 500 of them and entered the data.
“That was a pretty big project that made a big contribution to the agency and the community,” Bryan said.
Ciggy knows firsthand what it's like to be addicted to nicotine and how hard it is to quit (it's especially hard when you actually are a cigarette). So, as part of the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department's current tobacco prevention campaign, the friendly "cancer stick" was found passing out quit info on Massachusetts street today.
If you or a loved one is trying to quit or is ramping up for the Great American Smokeout — Nov. 17 — go to healthylawrence.org for information to end your relationship with Ciggy — and his friends. He's a nice guy and all, but even Ciggy knows that addictive relationships are no good.
Raising $1.7 million might sound like a daunting task, but organizers of the 2011 United Way of Douglas County campaign are confident the community will rise to the occasion.
Volunteers began a two-month-long campaign Thursday night with a celebration at Abe and Jake’s Landing, 8 E. Sixth St. Big Jay and regional mascots took to the dance floor, and silly prizes — from fake mustaches to flashing rings — were handed out at the door. Parents and children mingled, enjoying free food and drinks.
Out of the gate, Val Stella, campaign co-chair, said the campaign has already raised $416,000 thanks to pledges already made this year. He credited the generosity of the community and local businesses, many of whom are on track to exceed their goals.
“One company had a goal of raising $5,000. They’ve already raised $9,000,” Stella said.
Beth Stella, Val’s wife and co-chair of the campaign, said volunteers and donators have stepped up because they know times are tough.
“It really is a very generous community,” she said.
“We’re hoping it’s contagious,” Colleen Gregoire, director at the United Way of Douglas County, said of the generosity.
The United Way will focus its energy in three areas, which were chosen after asking Douglas County residents what areas were most important to them. The United Way will partner with 29 area organizations to help teens succeed in school, adults maintain jobs, and those in need of health care get access.
Blake Osborn is an AmeriCorps volunteer working on the health care aspect of that equation. He leads exercise classes at Babcock Place, which provides housing to senior citizens. For him, the kickoff was a way to connect with other volunteers.
“Coming here makes me realize I’m part of something bigger,” Osborn said. “It gets us all pumped up for the work we’re doing.”
Each of the 29 organizations receiving funds will be organized in one of three groups, based on the work they do. Organizations within each group coordinate with each other, which Beth Stella said helps to make each donated dollar go further.
“These problems we face are big ones, and they’ll only get solved if we take a united front,” she said.