These volunteer leaders were elected by you to care for AMCHP today and guide it into the future. Here they share information about themselves to give you a new MCH connection and a better understanding of the board members' roles, or simply to pique your interest in the work of your peers.
This month we have the privilege of introducing you to Karin Downs and Cate Wilcox, who were elected to the AMHCP Board of Directors earlier this year.
Karin Downs, RN, MS, MPH, has been an AMCHP member since 2006, serving in multiple volunteer capacities including as a member of the Best Practices Committee, which she has chaired, and the Emerging Issues Committee. She joined the board as the Region I director representing Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.
Karin came to public health through anthropology and nursing, which stirred a deep interest in people's stories and their experience of health, birth and families within the cultural context of their lives, communities and belief systems. Over the past 35 years she has worked both nationally and internationally -- in Nepal (with Peace Corps), Thailand (in refugee camps), Cambodia and Laos – focusing on MCH, community development, family economic stability, and relief and reconstruction. Her personal and professional goals are built on the core principles of social justice, health equity and the right for all families to receive the support they need to nurture their children through building strong relationships.
Karin works for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health as the MCH director for Title V Programs and director of the Division of Pregnancy, Infancy and Early Childhood. She received the Distinguished MCH Alumni Award from Boston School of Public Health in 2012 and completed a fellowship at the Maternal Child Health-Public Health Leadership Institute at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
Karin joined the AMCHP Board of Directors primarily "to connect with MCH colleagues across the nation and globe to respond to emerging issues, and to engage with national and local stakeholders to ensure that all families thrive and hold hope for the future for themselves and the generations to come."
Beyond her professional life, Karin shares that family is of central importance to her. As the youngest of six, she says her parents and siblings shaped her values, sense of belonging and life goals. As an adult, her family -- including her siblings, wife, three daughters and two granddaughters -- remain a source of support and inspiration, and important partners on her life journey. Karin also values her connection to the community, and for the past 12 years has participated as a team leader in a three-day benefit hike for a shelter that supports families who became homeless due to domestic violence, substance use and mental health issues. In this capacity, Karin has individually raised over $50,000.
Cate Wilcox, MPH, has been an active AMCHP member since 2007. She joined the board as a Region X director representing Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.
Cate is the maternal and child health manager and Title V director for the Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division. Prior to joining the state, she spent over seven years at Planned Parenthood of the Columbia/ Willamette, overseeing medical operations for 11 health centers serving three-quarters of Oregon and southwest Washington, and a staff of over 150. Earlier, she spent 12 years with the Johns Hopkins University Center for Communication Programs, developing and managing global training programs that focus on all aspects of reproductive health communication, including at the international, national and regional levels in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
Cate tells us it's been fun to have experiences in academic, nonprofit and (now) government work environments. She loves facing challenges and working with all the people around her to figure out the paths forward. (But she adds that she hates firing people!) She was thrilled to return to her alma mater, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, for a fellowship at the Maternal Child Health-Public Health Leadership Institute.
"AMCHP has given so much to all of the states in terms of advocacy, collaboration and connection", Cate says when asked what drew her to serve on the AMCHP Board of Directors. "I wanted to give back just some of that and participating on the board was my opportunity."
Travel has always been a big part of Cate's personal life, starting with her first camping trip at the age of 6 weeks. She lived in Germany during her high school-college gap year as an exchange student, then served in the Peace Corps in the late 1980s, in Micronesia. Cate has two daughters: Aniya (ah-NEE-ya), 13, is from Nepal, and Lila, 8, is from China. They keep her grounded both in her work life (she lives what she does!) and her personal life.
We thank and honor these two professionals for giving their time and expertise to AMCHP. Please take a moment to visit the AMCHP Board page for more details and how you can reach Karin Downs and Cate Wilcox directly.