Jovonni Spinner

40 Under 40 Class of 2019

Riverdale, Maryland

Senior Public Health Advisor

Office of Minority Health and Health Equity, Food and Drug Administration
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I envision a society where all sectors are at the table -- like housing advocates, transportation departments, and grocery stores -- and they become a driver of healthy living. To have this new reality we need influencers to lead the discussions, conduct the research, and make the connections. We need to build systems where health as a priority is beneficial to all and people can make the best informed health decisions.

BOLD SOLUTION: Jovonni produced videos featuring diverse patients to share positive experiences participating in clinical trials and dispelling myths. She managed this novel project from conception, conducting a needs assessment, writing scripts, coordinating legal clearances, securing talent, overseeing production, developing educational materials, marketing, and creating standard operating procedures for future programming. Additionally, she created educational opportunities for staff to learn about strategies to diversify clinical trials through the Health Equity Lecture Series and developed health educational materials for consumers. The videos have been viewed more than 135,000 times and have reached more than 4 million people through social media. More than 80 stakeholders supported the campaign launch, hundreds of staff viewed the lectures, and thousands have downloaded the materials, which have become a template for federal agencies to improve consumer engagement and empower patients to dialogue with their healthcare providers.

Five Questions for Jovonni

1. As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A dentist.

2. Who or what inspired you to enter the field of public health?

My first love was dentistry. However, after completing my undergraduate degree in biology, I realized my heart was not there, so I went on a quest to find my passion. While taking random graduate courses, I took my first public health course “Health Issues in the Black Community” and a light bulb went off! I always I knew that I wanted to be in the health field in some capacity, but this course made me realize that my talents were better served focusing on the entire population, instead of on individual patient care. From that point on, I have been dedicated to building public health programs that are responsive to the communities I serve. Doing this work has given me some of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

3. What are the greatest challenges you face in your public health work or area of focus?

Making others see the value of public health can be challenging. As a leader in public health, it is my job to deliver equity-focused solutions, value-added proposals, and to work with diverse sectors to solve complex health issues. At times, I have to prove the value of population-based solutions, be able to break down silos and think outside of the box to get the job done. In times of organizational change and layers of bureaucracy, this can be difficult to overcome, but with drive and perseverance, any obstacle can become a stepping stone to the solution.

4. What would success in public health look like to you?

Success would be every individual having access to the services, resources, and tools they need to live their best life. This would mean all sectors working together to create health-focused policies that benefit everyone, so people do not have to choose between paying utility bills or getting their prescriptions, everyone having quality health insurance, and children being able to play in public parks safely without fear of violence, for example.

5. What’s a story or experience that keeps you going, even when you’re feeling challenged?

There are so many injustices and inequities related to health, but nothing hits harder than the ones experienced personally. Reflecting on the subpar care family members have received, the challenges navigating through the healthcare system, or being denied access to a health service drive me to work harder — and not just for myself and loved ones, but for others who cannot advocate for themselves. I want to make sure the work I am doing is meaningful and impactful and helps people make better decisions about their health.

Jovonni Spinner's Recent Writing