Welcoming Workforce Development Training Centers to Lifelong Learning Family

PHX Perspectives | November 9th, 2020


Autumn is the season of change and nowhere is this more palpable than in the city of Boston. While the leaves transform from green to red and the winds change from warm to cold, it’s not just the environment around us that changes. This year, autumn heralded a time of transition at Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH)—this change included the addition of the former Activist Lab’s Workforce Development to the Office of Lifelong Learning. Workforce Development is the group that houses the three BUSPH grant-funded training centers, including the Local Public Health Institute (LPHI), the New England Public Health Training Center (NEPHTC) and the School Health Institute for Education and Leadership Development (SHIELD).

Kerry Dunnell is the Program Manager for the Local Public Health Institute (LPHI) of Massachusetts. She started her public health career in emergency preparedness planning in 2003, leading efforts to prepare and respond to anthrax outbreaks and smallpox epidemics at the local and regional level. At LPHI, Dunnell oversees 54 free online courses on a range of topics to help train the public health workforce in MA, who are responsible for food inspections, emergency preparedness planning and response, state sanitary code enforcement, and myriad of other things. Most recently, LPHI developed two courses about the Opioid Epidemic and the role of local public health practitioners, to fill a knowledge gap at the local level about how the opioid epidemic intersects with local public health practice. These courses offer guidance on how to access data for local communities, identify opportunities for collaboration and involvement, and highlight the work of many practitioners around the state.

Karla Todd joined the NEPHTC in 2016 as the Senior Program Manager. NEPHTC is a Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) funded program of 10 university-based training centers that serve the public health workforce development needs unique to their regions. NEPHTC delivers a wide range of learning programs and services that strengthen the public health workforce. Over the last year, Todd has collaborated with her peers at other universities to co-author a toolkit called Creating a Learning Agenda for Systems Change: A Toolkit to Build an Adaptive Public Health Workforce. NEPHTC will release the toolkit later this month.

Beverly Heinze-Lacey is the Manager of SHIELD, a school health workforce-training center funded by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. She began her career as a clinical research nurse and her interest in research led her to obtain a Master of Public Health degree from BUSPH. She worked as an HIV/AIDS epidemiologist, IRB administrator and grants manager. Prior to joining SHIELD, Heinze-Lacey worked as a school nurse/manager in her local school district. As the Director of SHIELD, she oversees training programs that deliver foundational training for entry-level school nurses.

While each of the training centers have their own mission and audience, they all share a common goal to train and develop the public health workforce of the future. As the current COVID-19 global pandemic rages on, it has become increasingly important to provide lifelong learning opportunities to current public health practitioners. As Kathleen Macvarish, the Principal Investigator for the grants that fund the three training centers shared “Kerry, Bev, and Karla are amazing and it’s been exciting to see how each of them has embraced the mission of their training centers. They’ve all worked really hard to build and expand cross-sector partnerships that get to the heart of what public health is all about – collaboration. The move into the Office of Lifelong Learning is really benefiting all of us – the expanded set of colleagues allows us to learn from each other and to more effectively use our resources.”

Change can be scary but autumn reminds us that it can also be beautiful. For Lifelong learning, this change meant the growth of the team to include workforce development. Where there is change, there is also opportunity. We are excited to learn how the training centers will evolve under Lifelong Learning and continue their vital mission to train and develop the public health workforce.

Kathleen MacVarish

oversees the workforce development programs in the Office of Lifelong Learning and has a faculty appointment in the Environmental Health department. She designs and delivers online, classroom, and blended trainings for the public health workforce and taught MPH courses that focused on environmental health, community engagement, and public health preparedness. Kathleen is Principal Investigator (PI) for the Local Public Health Institute of MA (LPHI) and the School Health Institute for Education and Leadership Development (SHIELD) and is transitioning into the PI role for the New England Public Health Training Center (NEPHTC). She has the pleasure of working with three amazing leaders of each of the training centers.