Betty Cheney exemplifies the collaboration between medicine and public health. Since entering the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine and the Wright State Master of Public Health Program, she has focused on helping others attain high-quality lives by creating social and physical environments that promote good health.
The U.S. Public Health Service has taken note of her commitment to public health and will recognize Cheney with a 2015 Excellence in Public Health Award at the Boonshoft School of Medicine commencement ceremonies on Friday, May 22, at the Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center in downtown Dayton.
As an undergraduate at Wittenberg University, Cheney’s experience at a community health center set the stage for her interest in public health. At the Rocking Horse Center in Springfield, Cheney was introduced to the concept of a medical home. That experience shaped her career goal of becoming a pediatrician who cares about children and the underserved.
“At the time, the idea of a medical home was new to me, but it intuitively made sense,” said Cheney, who majored in chemistry at Wittenberg University. “The goal was to be a central point in the community from which a child, and their parents, could access all necessary services, such as medical, dental, social services, counseling and Medicaid applications.”
The experience resonated with her career goals. As a child, she considered becoming a teacher or a doctor. She chose to become a doctor and has found that clinical encounters include education for both the child and the parents.
As a member of the Physician Leadership Development Program (PLDP) at the Boonshoft School of Medicine, Cheney completed her Master of Public Health (M.P.H.) degree concurrent with medical school. During her M.P.H. coursework, she examined the effectiveness of using motivational interviewing with adolescents who are diagnosed with obesity.
“Her desire to improve the quality of life for others led her to find more effective ways of counseling and educating young people about health challenges and making positive changes to health behaviors,” said Sabrina Neeley, Ph.D., PLDP director. “Betty wants to be part of the community in order to better understand the many factors that impact the health and well-being of her patients. She wants to care for her patients and their families as if they are her neighbors.”
Cheney found the Physician Leadership Development Program and the M.P.H. program to be an appropriate fit for her career goals.
“I sought out the skill sets that would allow me to contribute to my community as a pediatrician,” said Cheney, who is from Grandview Heights, Ohio. “The combination of the two programs offered leadership training and an understanding of public health and international health that extended beyond the traditional medical school curriculum.”
Cheney volunteered for international experiences that strengthened her medical knowledge and skills. She was part of a pediatrics team during a six-week international health experience in Tanzania. She spent two weeks doing a clinical shadowing with HIV-positive children in Lesotho. She is a founding board member of BLOOM Africa, a nongovernmental organization that supports local partnerships to improve the lives of orphans and vulnerable children.
At the Boonshoft School of Medicine, Cheney was committed to improving the lives and health of children through community service. She served as a Student to Student talk leader, discussing health and the human body with local elementary and secondary schoolchildren. She also served as a volunteer coach for the Special Olympics Roller Skating team, leading practices, coordinating competitions and recruiting other medical student volunteers.
During her third year of medical school, Cheney served as co-chair of the PLDP Executive Council, advising program administration and organizing opportunities for other medical students to learn about leadership. She also served as co-chair of the Pediatrics Club, class service chair for the Medical School Student Council and student representative on numerous School of Medicine administrative committees. She was a member of the Phi Rho Sigma Medical Society and was inducted into the Delta Omega Honorary Society in Public Health and the Gold Humanism Honor Society.
Cheney will begin her residency this summer in pediatrics at the University of Florida Health Shands Hospital in Orlando.
“I am excited to learn about my new community in Orlando and discover the resources and organizations that will be important for my patients,” Cheney said. “The transition to residency will be a challenge, but I believe the Boonshoft School of Medicine has prepared me well for the next stage of my training.”