HEAL Spotlight: Jacquelyn Favours

  • Name: Jacquelyn S. Favours, MPH
  • Originated from: rural Columbia, Tennessee (one hour south of Nashville)
  • Public health area(s) of expertise: Behavioral Science, Research, Community Engagement, Health Equity
  • Educational background: BA from Fisk University and MPH from Tennessee State University
  • Jobs before your current position (selected): Spent eight years working on health disparities and community-engaged research (from recruitment to analysis to consulting)
  • Best advice you’ve ever received: Don’t go to medical school.
  • Advice you’d give to emerging global public health professionals: Find what makes you happy and motivates you to continue to get up in the morning.
  • Personal website, if any: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jsfavours/
  • Twitter handle, if any: @jakki_fave

Your story

I am a first-generation college student from a single parent home and grew up in rural, deep south United States. Although, I became a mother while pursuing my academic career, I stuck to my career plans while also child-rearing with the help of a vast support network of family and friends. I also sought out opportunities to build up a good amount of experience as a student and to keep making money. Therefore, when I graduated, I was experienced enough to be hired in the field. I have had great mentors to help guide my career choices. I always took opportunities and completed them to the best of my ability, which has helped build a national reputation for my work in public health and community engagement.

I had a Student Health Ambassador role when I was an undergraduate student that provided many opportunities. My biology advisor said I would make a good fit for this Ambassador role, where I did a two-week intensive course on the IRB, human subjects research, etc., and I chose to focus on infant mortality as my topic. When I started conducting breast cancer health disparities research at Meharry, I was still an undergraduate student. That was when I first time I learned about public health but very much still into research and inquisitive about so many things.

I’ve had a lot of influence in my background that’s related to health, which made me interested in health and taking care of people. Growing up, I watched my mother be a nurse in homecare and nursing home care as a Certified Nursing Assistant. I was so up under my mother. I would never want to see her leave and go on her shifts without me so I would beg her to take me with her. When I was there, I would do homework but also got to help by wheeling patients to where they needed to be, helped feed patients, etc. As a pre-teen, this was a great experience for me, especially as I could be with my mother.

Going into college, I had the idea that I’d be some physician, an OB/GYN to show more representation for people who look like me. Because I grew up in a rural area, I felt like this was necessary. I chose to change my career path based on my experience as a Student Health Ambassador, because I learned from my research experience that public health was something for me that was about the people. About populations, communities of people. I and a few of my other friends lost our mothers at a very young age. I lost my mother when I was 18 to diabetes. She passed away very suddenly from a diabetic coma. Before that, two of my close friends had lost their mothers when we were in high school. One had lupus, and another had an aneurysm. I also had a family friend pass from heart disease. All of those things happened at aged 18 or earlier. When I got to college and learned about public health, it made sense in a way that I had always known about it but never knew how to describe it. Health disparities became very clear to me when I was able to finally describe what it was. As I continued to do work in health disparities research, I found I had a love and skillset in community engagement, which has led me to the role I have today.

Jacquelyn speaking at a Statewide Community Health Forum in 2018.

Inner Lantern glow-up 

  • Lesson(s) learned over the last year or so: Interning is key. Mentoring and networking are key. Trust yourself as the expert.
  • Current life motto: People likely won’t remember what you say or do, but they always remember how you make them feel (from Maya Angelou).
  • Advice on building connections and finding mentors: You can find a mentor by Googling your interests. A mentoring relationship can happen organically, or you could connect with someone on platforms like LinkedIn, which is a platform that could provide hints to who a person is and whether your interests align with theirs. Even people that you meet (and of course, now things are happening via Zoom), connect with the speaker and the attendees on a webinar to find people you share common interests with, Google them, connect with them on LinkedIn. Once connect with them on LinkedIn, you could find someone whom you feel like, “this is the person that I could see myself doing their job.” That’s what you want, right? You want to find those people to find where those next opportunities lie.
  • The key to effective, ethical community engagement is: When the program, process or initiative that is being developed is developed in partnership with the people of the community the initiative aims to serve or benefit. When the decision-makers take time to intentionally ensure that no harm is being done.
  • What’s your favorite public health organization/agency and why: The Elders, because they are a global organization (I think groups that impact the most people for me are the best), are apolitical, and are made of people who just want to do the right thing.
  • If you didn’t have to work what would you do: Run my own business.
  • What is one of your proudest accomplishments: Getting my current job.
  • Coolest public health specialization to be in: Maternal Child Health/Policy.
  • What’s one thing everyone in the public health field should know: Definition of public health and a few tangible examples.
  • Currently reading/listening to: “The Layover” and Michelle Obama podcasts. Reading my son books at night.
  • Favorite Disney movie: Lion King.
  • Favorite work memory thus far: When I organized a community discussion forum with guest speakers Dr. David Satcher and Dr. Camara Jones.
Jacquelyn with former APHA President, Dr. Camara Jones at a Community Health Forum Jacquelyn organized in 2016.
  • Advice for people who are interested in community engagement work: As public health professionals, we also have to realize we are an individual within our community. Start with your community. There are community-based member organizations that you can take advantage of, and there are always folks looking for volunteers. When people see you there, that will only be the beginning. It starts with finding the group that’s around you that’s doing what you’re interested in. if you’re in a place where there’s nothing nearby, take advantage of technology. There’s always something you can do by bringing people together via social media, educating people about a cause or topic, etc. With community engagement, it’s about what you want to do to help your community.
  • What is special about the place where you grew up: Deep southern history of racism and slavery and civil rights events. City is over 200 years old and known for being “Mule Town USA” – Mule Day was formerly a day, like Labor Day, where slaves and livestock were sold at the town square. Over time it has evolved into sort of parade, petting zoo type carnival day for the city.
  • What job would you be terrible at: Clothing retail, not fashion-minded and I loathe folding/hanging clothing.
  • Health equity is, in your words: Health equity is the goal or vision for public health, communities that have fair access to health, absent of injustices.
  • What makes you happy: Spending time with my family.
  • Favorite place to eat in your hometown/area you’re currently living in: Thai Phooket.
  • If you could live anywhere, where would you live: On a Caribbean Island, beautiful scenery and chill island life/culture.
  • What could you give a 40-minute presentation on with zero preparation: What is public health, community engagement, health equity and the stages of research and how to engage community on research teams, resume writing, career development and professional development.
  • What industry do you think will be revolutionized soon: Retail, food, and entertainment industries.
  • Urgent issue(s) in global public health you wished more people knew/cared about: Sex trafficking and modern-day slavery.
  • How does someone find their “niche” in public health: If you’re an undergraduate or graduate student, participate in programs on/off campus. When someone recommends an opportunity to you, take advantage of it because you could never know where it could lead to. That, for me, in so many ways has been helpful because I always took advantage of whatever I could do in undergraduate and graduate school. You should definitely practice time management and don’t overwhelm yourself, but there are just moments when we find ourselves having down time and we could take on maybe four hours extra a day throughout the week that’s enriching what we’re learning. Or when summer or Christmas break comes, take opportunities to do online courses. Younger generations have new ideas around technologies that can be applied to obtaining opportunities and finding your niche in public health. Public health is so wide—epidemiology, behavioral health, emergency preparedness, etc. All of those areas can benefit from technology and that’s a way in which younger generations have a foothold and an opportunity to bring with them and to build on and find out where they want to be. How can you use technology and resources out there to gain more experiences.
  • Favorite commercial: Any Superbowl commercial because they are the only ones I watch.
  • Favorite artists: Michael Jackson, Beyoncé
  • What location is at the top of your travel bucket list: Maldives.
  • What lifestyle changes are you trying to make, if any: I am getting married this year and becoming a wife, new thing is family workouts together.
  • How will the world be different post-COVID-19: Heightened awareness of germs, increase in traumatic stress/mental health issues, a more technology-ran society, especially for Gen Z-ers.
  • What is worth splurging on every time: Food, massage, travel.
  • How will you make your life a “meaningful life:” Publish/post while on the journey.
  • Most memorable gift that you’ve ever received: My mother gave me a wooden rocking chair when I was pregnant with my first son.
  • Best trip of your life thus far: Five-day Cruise in the Caribbean.
  • Who do you go out of your way to be nice to: Anyone I am sending an email to.
  • Three words those close to you would use to describe you: Workaholic, public health, leader.
  • With being a ‘workaholic’, how do you integrate work with your personal life? I have not quite figured out the formula for this just yet, but being a young mother, I’ve always had to balance family and life: going through college, etc. I had a passion for what I wanted to do, and I had a mission to pursue my career in a way that I did. I threw myself all in. I felt like, “yes, I knew I was sacrificing family and friends.” I remember missing a family reunion to do a summer internship, among other things. I felt like those experiences at the time were sacrifices that I would benefit from, because the internship would help me, and it really has. Now, I’m in a place where I see the career I have now as something I’ve been working towards. I feel like I’m in a turning point in my life because I’m getting married soon, and just so many different things. I think 2020 has happened in a way that has allowed me to take time to reflect on the way that I throw myself into my job. I’m always running to the next meeting and that’s a way I’ve lived my life. But I don’t regret how I’ve lived because when I spend time with family, I go all out in those times and cherish them. I feel like I want to pursue more of a balanced work-life, and my current job really allows me to do that.
  • Favorite candy/snack/dessert: Chocolate.
  • Life goals: I want to travel and make my family and children proud.
  • Role model(s): Barack Obama for his leadership and charisma, and Maya Angelou for her elegant language and transformational life.
  • What is the best way that someone can spend their time: Reading.
  • You dream of a world where: People are free of oppression.
Jacquelyn with her husband and children.

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