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Jeremy Sappington

Jeremy Sappington

Jeremy Sappington has lived a storied life as a health educator, an advocate for health clinics in a racially divided East Saint Louis, a long-distance cyclist, a baker, a co-director of the Kitsap Peace Coalition, and founder of Group Health Cooperative's Health Promotion Program, but his greatest accomplishments occur in the classroom. As a senior lecturer in the Department of Health Services, Jeremy feels most rewarded when his students take the lessons out of the classroom and apply them to the world of public health practice.

A native of Missouri, Jeremy graduated from Kansas State University in 1963 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. He entered the public health field after accepting a job as a health educator for the Kansas State Department of Public Health. He found that his background in psychology was well suited for his work, which included a successful statewide oral polio immunization campaign, seat belt promotion, and rural farm accident prevention.

In 1963, he was awarded a public health traineeship, which allowed him to study at the University of North Carolina. Jeremy graduated in 1964 with his Master of Science in Public Health and was elected to Delta Omega, the honorary society in public health. To complete the service required of public health trainees, he served as program director for the Kansas Heart Association.

Jeremy joined the Illinois State Department of Health in the late 1960s to work in East Saint Louis in the aftermath of a race riot that left a palpable antipathy between black and white residents. It was during this time that he faced some of the biggest challenges of his professional life as he worked with local gang leaders to establish community-controlled health clinics. He recalls many tense meetings until mutual trust was built that would allow for genuine collaboration. Jeremy and his co-workers managed to surmount many hurdles and establish a health worker program as well as the health clinics, some of which are still operational today.

During the early 1970s he worked as a practicing health educator in the Monterey and Marin County Health Departments. In 1972, he joined the faculty at the University of Missouri School of Medicine where he and his colleagues started the graduate program in community health education.

Jeremy moved to Washington State in 1980 and spent two years developing Group Health Cooperative's Health Promotion Program before embarking on a four-month cycling tour of Europe with his wife. When they returned to the state, Jeremy worked as a baker on Bainbridge Island and co-directed the Kitsap Peace Coalition with his wife. After a valiant (but ultimately unsuccessful) attempt to stop the "white train" from carrying nuclear warheads to Bangor, Washington, Jeremy returned to work at Group Health.

Two of Jeremy's role models are Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Junior, so it was not surprising that when asked what he hopes his students learn from him, Jeremy answered "patience." He emphasized that it is the most important virtue of a person seeking a long-term career in public health. While he said he could not imagine a more rewarding, satisfying, and challenging career, Jeremy's emphasis on patience is a nod to the fact that many public health workers do not see the fruits of their labor for years after their efforts began.

As for the future, Jeremy plans to spend more time focusing on environmental issues, and making use of his certificate in wetlands management. He hopes to see an increase in the number of red-legged frogs in his backyard pond. He also hopes to see the day when the United States citizenry understands their common obligation to provide health care to all. For that, he may have to wait patiently.