I’m so happy to join you all and serve with you as President Elect of the Illinois Public Health Association. I know we have some new faces to the board, so I wanted to take this opportunity to welcome you to your new roles and to thank our existing board members to serve with us.
For those of you who I haven’t been able to meet yet, I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself. I am the Interim Director and department head for the National Center for Rural Health Professions at the University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford Campus. I am from a small town of 3,000 in northern Illinois and growing up I didn’t know what public health was until I took a class on global public health my senior year of college at the University of Iowa. I was so inspired by the concept to not just treat individuals patients but to effect real and meaningful change for entire populations. I called my parents after taking this course and said-I think I’m going to add a major-again this was my second to last semester of senior year so my parents weren’t really seeing my vision that through public health I could save the world-They were a bit more practical- their first question was how much more money in tuition is this going to cost and their next question was “what is public health?”
Little did I know the question “What is Public Health” is something I would be answering my entire career. To me, public health is a safe space for people who may not even know that they are unsafe. Public health is policy, not politics. Public health is a house. It is a house to hold the communities we serve and the workers in the field who make it all happen. What makes the house a home, though, is the Illinois Public Health Association. IPHA ensures that there is money to fund health protection programs, it provides advocacy through health policy and IPHA puts out the welcome mat to any new and energized students and young professionals in public health, much like they did for me, when I first joined IPHA on the nomination committee when I started my job at the Lee County Health Department in 2009. It has been over a decade since I first attended my first IPHA conference and a lot has changed since then, I moved from working at a local health department with my Master’s in Public Health, to getting a PhD and working in academic public health and medicine (although my heart and soul will also be with the frontline workers who get up every day to make a difference for their communities). However, one thing that has remained consistent is my commitment to supporting IPHA’s mission to lead in the enhancement and support of the public health system and the practice of public health, focused on health equity and improved health throughout Illinois.
I don’t need to remind everyone that we are in unprecedented times for our field. Times that don’t seem to correct itself anytime soon, but despite the sometimes animosity through the misguided misunderstanding of what public health does among those we are charged to service and the list of other duties as assigned that keep growing, the commitment of ensuring the health of Illinois residents is unwavered. I know these past couple of years have been tiring, but I’ve always found that if you are tired, it helps to find comfort in your home. And lucky for us, we are always welcome to find a guiding light in our IPHA home. We will be there and we will support you and together we will show our state what real public health is and does.
Dr. Hana Hinkle, President, Illinois Public Health Association