Alumni Spotlight - Rose Penix, MPH ‘14

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Rose Penix, MPH ‘14, CAPM, serves as quality, culture and inclusion coordinator II at Summa Health and as an adjunct faculty for the College of Public Health.

As a CPH alumna, Penix understands the challenges that students have to face transitioning from an academic setting to a job setting, and every year she supports more than 30 CPH students during their internship or Applied Practice Experience (APE) at Summa. “Internships and APEs are a truly valuable experience for students moving into the real world. MPH students that have completed their APE at Summa have worked on a wide range of projects,” says Penix. “I’ve worked with students that have conducted program assessments, aided in policy and process development, assessed patient access and satisfaction and designed training and health education for providers and the community. Other students have conducted community outreach in the form of public health education, while others  have been part of a community work group to improve mental health access and engagement for non-English speakers. We’ve really had quite a variety of projects over the years,” Penix states.

What year did you graduate from CPH and what is your degree?

I graduated with my Master of Public Health, Social and Behavioral Science concentration, in 2014. My undergraduate degrees are in sociology and anthropology and I hold the credential of Certified Associate of Project Management (CAPM) and am pursuing a certification as a Blackbelt in Lean Six Sigma.

In a nutshell, what do you do?

I am a quality, culture, and inclusion coordinator at Summa Health, as such I work for the whole health system and my work is mainly project-based, so it varies widely from day to day/week to week. I find groups that are underserved, including patients but also our staff and providers, and I figure out ways to improve their experience. As Summa is a teaching institution, I also do some education, teaching some classes such as safety and I am also responsible for the Limited English Proficiency patient Health Stream, an annual education that I provide to all Summa employees via video. All our work is data driven, so we’re able to see that the work we’re doing makes the intended impact, and to ensure the sustainability of the changes we put into place.

What are you working on right now?

The Women+ Resource Center is a huge part of my work right now. About two years ago I’d developed a strategic plan for the creation of the WRC to support first the Women+ of Summa, and then expand to a community level operation after two years. This means I work on programming, funding, physical and electronic resources, employee wellness, etc. I also manage Summa’s work associated with our Limited English Proficiency patients. This means ensuring that there’s ample access to appropriate and professional interpretation as well as translation services. I work with community organizations, including area refugee centers to make sure that Summa is meeting community needs. I develop training for all of our employees, I provide system updates and ensure compliance with our accrediting bodies, etc. I’m also involved in projects around improving the Black male experience in our emergency room, and addressing the social determinants of health (SDOH). I’m working on creating an assessment of our nurses’ understanding of ethics engagement. Summa’s a teaching institution so I also schedule speakers to train our providers on Cultural Competency (for example, folks from the Center for Hope and Healing, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, etc.) and I teach safety courses for new hires. At any given time, I have a minimum of 12 projects that I’m working on, and those are always evolving.

Why did you choose this path?

I wanted to help people. And this absolutely allows me to do so.

Why do you love what you do?

I can actually see the difference that the work we do makes. And that’s an exciting feeling. One of the best things about being in this field is that everything we do is cutting edge. Public health and the healthcare industry are ever evolving, and I’ve been fortunate enough to land a job at Summa, an organization fully focused on improving the lives of our patients, our staff, and the community we serve. I am grateful every day to work in such a forward thinking and fulfilling role.

How did your KSU CPH education prepare you for your current work in Public Health?

I work for a health system. Only a few years back, folks in the medical field started to recognize that only about 1% (this is true, and there’s tons of literature on it) of health outcomes are associated with what happens at the doctor’s office. In other words, the medical field recognized the impact of the social determinants of health. I came into this role with a systems thinking/SDOH/big picture perspective that has allowed me to grow professionally while simultaneously influencing the performance of the institutions. The position I hold was created for me, when leadership recognized that the work I was doing was extremely valuable.

What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of your work?

Working with people is both rewarding and challenging. I work with medical professionals and encounter a lot of big personalities. I have been fortunate in that Summa provides leadership training, quality improvement training, change management, etc. through the Leadership Institute to prepare us to deal with more challenging situations.

Was there a seminal moment for you at KSU CPH?

I think this would be the first time I took a Public Health course. I’d planned to pursue a graduate degree in sociology. I was taking master’s level courses as a guest to get a firmer idea of what I wanted to do with myself.  I had started college, as corny as it sounds, with the goal of “helping others,” which I think is fine…but doesn’t do much to guide one’s career choices. Anyway, I’d had a handful of classes with this professor, and he approached me outside of class. He said that I seemed like I wanted to be a little more “hands on” in my profession, and I did. He asked if I had considered public health. I guested in an intro course, and I was hooked!

What advice would you give to current Public Health students?

Make sure that you’re doing what you love. You’ll be better at it and better for it. If you have the opportunity to intern, do so. This will be hugely influential as you interview for professional positions. And start networking. Flashes find each other everywhere that we are. I have the good fortune of working with Kent State grads within Summa and in our interdisciplinary groups.  And we always look out for each other. Flashes take care of Flashes.

POSTED: Thursday, September 7, 2023 02:28 PM
Updated: Thursday, September 7, 2023 03:37 PM