Ms. Brandie Combs, 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient!
Ms. Combs graduated with her MPH in 2001, completing her degree while she was an Administrative Technician and Public Health Educator with the Oklahoma State Department of Health. She served a multi-county area in western and northern Oklahoma helping to assess, plan, implement, and evaluate health promotion programs. This foundational work in her early career gave her the insight of what could be accomplished by working directly with communities on locally tailored health improvement initiatives.
Her vision of community engagement for health improvement took a positive turn in October 2001 when Ms. Combs became the Western Oklahoma Turning Point Manager. Turning Point, originally funded by the Robert Wood Johnson and Kellogg foundations sought to work with community partners on identifying local health improvement priories and developing local solutions. Through her innovative work, new community health improvement initiatives were established by collaborating with community partners on local health assessments and strategic initiatives. As the number of Turning Point community partnerships grew, so did the successes including comprehensive exercise trails, local policies for tobacco use prevention, new access points for primary care services, school wellness initiatives, and community gardens. Her efforts eventually lead to the statewide position of Director for the Oklahoma Turning Point Office. What started as a small initiative with three community partnerships grew to over 70 local Turning Point partnerships and the Oklahoma Turning Point Council that focused on advocacy and policy change. Brandie’s leadership on building a strong Turning Point foundation can still be seen with active partnerships all across the state and many, many health improvement successes.
In 2012, Brandie decided to take a slightly different direction by focusing on direct health care services as Executive Director of the Lawton Community Health Center. While her primary focus was integrating primary care with behavioral health, addiction, oral health, and prevention services, she still engaged multiple stakeholders to identify gaps in services and meet the needs of vulnerable and underserved populations.
But, her call to public health and community engagement was just too strong, and in 2013 Brandie returned to the Oklahoma State Department of Health as a Regional Health Director where she manages and supervises all health department staff, programs, and local finances in Beckham, Caddo, Comanche, Cotton, Greer, Harmon, Jackson, Kiowa, Tillman and Washita counties. In this expanded role, Brandie has the opportunity every day to not only assure public health services are available to Oklahomans who are disproportionately overburdened by health disparities, but also work with collaborative community partnerships to identify local health improvement priorities and implement lasting solutions. Ms. Combs makes a positive impact every day on the health of Oklahoma, and we can think of no one more deserving as the 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award for the Hudson College of Public Health Department of Health Promotion Sciences.