We are pleased to offer the November installment of our Spotlight series to highlight MPHA partners and friends from across the state who are changing lives and communities to improve health and advance health equity.
This month we interviewed Deborah Dickerson, MPHA’s newly elected Board President and Director of Community, Family and Youth Programs at Boston Children’s Hospital. Deborah Dickerson has served on the MPHA Board since 2008 and has eagerly jumped into her role at the head of the Board.
MPHA: At what point did you decide to go into public health?
DD: I don’t think I ever made a “conscious” decision to go into public health. I believe my life circumstances made me more aware of my interests and desires to work for better health outcomes for everyone. Due to late detection, my mother died of breast cancer when she was 57 years old. My father died at 62 from lung cancer after many years of smoking. When the threat of polio loomed, I remember standing in line at school to get a shot so that I would not get the crippling disease. I personally witnessed how health disparities, lack of access to quality health services, and inadequate resources can have devastating effects on the health and well-being of generations. I strongly believe that through the work of groups like MPHA, we can make a difference through policy and advocacy work, education, and collaboration.
MPHA: What kind of things do you work on as Director of Community, Family and Youth Programs at Boston Children’s Hospital?
DD: My role as the Director of Community, Family and Youth Programs focuses on developing programs that respond to the health needs of patients, residents and community partners. We bring the expertise of Boston Children’s Hospital staff and researchers out to the community. By providing health education programs and programmatic events that educate, and inform, we empower participants to lead healthy and productive lives no matter where they live.
MPHA: How did you first connect with MPHA and why did you continue to support and be involved with MPHA?
DD: An email came across my desk in 2008 asking if our office at BCH had any suggestions for potential board members. I volunteered myself! I became a member of the Policy Committee in my first year and learned more about the policy agenda of MPHA. It touched upon many of the issues that I am interested in, and provided me with a voice and platform to be heard. I was asked to chair the Nominating Committee two years later and now here I am, the new Board President. I stayed involved because I found a group of really smart people who knew a lot more than me about the issue of public health and they were actually doing things to make changes happen throughout Massachusetts.It is a privilege to be among a group of leaders dedicated to their work in the public, academic, private, and non-profit sectors.
MPHA: What are your goals and intentions for MPHA as the new Board President?
DD: I want the board to actively engage in supporting our new Executive Director Rebekah Gewirtz and MPHA’s wonderful staff in order to efficiently implement our new three year strategic plan. Our plan is comprehensive and will take MPHA to the next level of growth and development, but we will need everyone’s commitment and time to make this plan a reality.
MPHA: What aspect of public health are you most passionate about?
DD: I am passionate about health equity. Assuring that everyone- no matter what color their skin is, where they live, what language they speak, or how much they earn- will have the opportunity to live in a community or neighborhood that promotes healthy living is a top priority for me and aligns flawlessly with MPHA’s mission and vision.
MPHA: Where do you usually get your news?
DD: On the internet