In celebration of National Health Education Week, we are interviewing four accomplished CHES® and MCHES® in varying career sectors across the country. Today, we are chatting with Deniece Chevannes, MPH, MCHES®, Director of Health Promotion & Evaluation at Hemophilia of Georgia.
NCHEC: How did you become a Director of Health Promotion & Evaluation?
Deniece: I like to say that health education found me. My bachelor’s degree is in Spanish and I started out my career as an interpreter for a GYN clinic at a safety net hospital. Pretty soon the patients were telling me more than they would their doctors and I realized that most of their issues could have been prevented with some health education. The first few months in that job I spent more time having informal education sessions in the waiting room than I did interpreting. The manager of the program asked me if I would consider offering formal health education classes and my official career in health education was born. I got my Master in Community Health Education and became a certified CHES. I then began working at a nonprofit focused on teen pregnancy prevention and positive youth development, and that is when I pursued my MCHES Certification. I later became a fellow at the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at CDC which led me to my current position in the field of bleeding disorders for a nonprofit.
NCHEC: What are your main tasks in your current position?
Deniece: I am fortunate that I love what I do! On an average day, I am usually working with partners locally and internationally, developing logic models, evaluation plans and designing program implementation strategies. I might start the day speaking English and then have a zoom video meeting in Spanish with our partners in the Caribbean discussing how to best advocate to get buy-in for our programs and build relationships with the ministry of health. It’s never boring!
NCHEC: What do you love most about your job?
Deniece: I love that at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter the language, or where I am physically located; I am working to empower people to improve their health outcomes and take leadership in strengthening their community. I also get to mentor and grow the next generation of emerging youth leaders that are going to change the world. And as a bonus, I get to travel, eat fantastic food and create friendships around the world.
NCHEC: What advice can you give to young professionals who wish to become health education specialists?
Deniece: The field of health education gives you many options on how to practice. Find your passion, I started out in direct patient services and then realized I enjoyed working at the systems level to implement sustainable change. This meant that for me, certification was an avenue to grow my career and create a path upward. Whether I am trying to secure funding, get buy-in from stakeholders, or I am designing data collection tools, learning and developing my skills in the seven areas of responsibilities has given me an essential foundation to be an impactful health educator. Learn your craft, build your skills and always remember that for change to be sustainable the community has to be at the table.