40 under 40 class of 2019Kansas City , Missouri
Public Health StatisticianCity of Kansas City, Mo. Health Department
BOLD SOLUTION: Until Elizabeth’s arrival, the advent of data storytelling was largely left out of public health practice in Kansas City. A writer a heart, she took these statistical reports and started to tell stories with them. Her biggest accomplishment was the creation of a newsletter that sparked conversation in parts of the community that had never happened before. Residents began reaching out, asking to be added to the mailing list. Residents the mayor of KCMO also tweeted about it. Since then, she has been working with the communications team to put together tweetable packages of data. Today, they collaborate more than ever to ensure the best use of data to engage the community.
FIVE QUESTIONS FOR ELIZABETH
1. Who or what inspired you to enter the field of public health?
I was inspired to enter the public health field when two close friends were diagnosed with cancer. At the time, I worked in a cancer research lab so while I knew that cancer treatments were effective, I wished I could have done something to prevent these diagnoses altogether. Around the same time, I was accepted into the Peace Corps where I was presented with an opportunity to explore public health and its roots in prevention. I didn’t end up serving with the Peace Corps but my experience in the interview process helped me discover a career that would allow me to prevent disease, rather than treat it.
2. What is one of the most interesting projects you’ve worked on in public health? What made it interesting or rewarding?
I worked on a newsletter series focused on racism in Kansas City that served as an eye-opening history lesson. As a white girl who grew up in rural Iowa, I was surprised by what I learned examining the current impacts of racist structures and policies on health today. I became more conscious of how my own bias plays into my interpretation and reporting of data.
3. What would success in public health look like to you?
If I produced data for a community health assessment and found that the results indicated all residents had the same opportunity to be healthy, I’d consider that success.
4. What’s a story or experience that keeps you going, even when you’re feeling challenged?
Engaging with health department employees and educating them about the Office of Data Dissemination and its work motivates me. I really enjoy discussing the impacts of racism on life expectancy and other health outcomes in Kansas City during these sessions; I continue to receive feedback from employees that what I share on the topics over 20 minutes is what helps them understand the importance of their role in making a real difference in the community. When I’m having a tough day, this is what pushes me to move forward.
5. As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a kid, I wanted to be a superhero with the combined powers of She-Ra, Princess of Power, and Storm from X-Men.