In Summer 2017, Public Health’s School-Based Partnerships team bid farewell to staff member, Sarah Wilhelm who joined the Best Starts for Kids leadership team focusing on trauma-informed and restorative justice practices for youth in King County. We wish her well in this new professional adventure and welcome new staff member, Samantha Yeun! Samantha will be supporting both Families and Education Levy and Best Starts for Kids work, focusing in a variety of areas including quality improvement in our school-based health centers. Read on to learn more about Samantha!
What path led you to school health work?
I spent twenty-one years with the Pierce County Health Department doing health promotion, outreach, education, and interventions alongside community-based organizations and health providers on various public health topics. In my last seven years there, I had the opportunity to work closely with schools and school districts to find a better way to address student health through policy, system, and environmental change approaches. The concept was adopted from the CDC’s Coordinated School Health approach. Of course, these approaches came with high cost and staff commitment which put a large burden on school staff that don’t have adequate resources and tools to deal with adolescent health in the school settings.
Interacting with school staff, teachers, administrators, parents, community partners, and students led to the path of school health. I realized we need better alignment and collaborations to support health care providers and the schools, especially when resources are limited. My husband and I are raising three boys ages 22, 19, and 13 and being in a public health career made me question the impact of health information being given in schools and what young people’s views are when it comes to decision-making related to their personal health. Just to say that my two young men have totally opposite views on health. What happened? When and how to engage young people to be self-health advocates and engagement that will impact their health outcomes as adults?
What do you like best about your job?
The best part about my job is supporting the collaboration leadership between schools, administrators, and health care providers who are committed to the mission of “healthy kids learn better.” This is a simple mission but a large task to tackle in order to see the return on investment. The support that we provide ranges from identifying the root causes to engaging the right leadership for a solution. Public Health–Seattle & King County is one of the few health departments across the country that is leading the way of addressing adolescent health through school-based clinics and I am very fortunate to be part of this team.
To be honest, the real icing on the cake is my team. With just a couple months getting to know my team and the program, I am very impressed with the model and the quality of services they support in the school-based health clinics. [Editor’s note: we are so glad to have her on our team!]
What is a big challenge?
To me, one of the biggest challenges is also my biggest reward. It is that every school in every community has different needs and different outcomes that they are accountable for and we have to be able to support them in a way that is meaningful to them. We have to recognize that each small success from each community is a big win to our overall school health outcomes that align with our equity and social justice theory of change.
What is something unusual that most people don’t know about you?
I am very diverse in food culture and sometimes people that know me think that I am a food fussy. I like creative cooking. My children would like to see me on Chopped Champion someday.