From the series Faculty Awards for Excellence 2022–2023

2022–2023 Presidential Award for Faculty Excellence: Community Engagement

Sara Paton

Sara Paton

Sara Paton, Ph.D., associate professor of epidemiology in the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences and director of the Master of Public Health Program, received the 2022–2023 Presidential Award for Faculty Excellence: Community Engagement.

Paton’s teaching and scholarship have been described by her colleagues as firmly rooted in community-mindedness and engagement. When she began her joint position as both faculty at Wright State’s Boonshoft School of Medicine and an epidemiologist at Public Health – Dayton and Montgomery County in 2004, Paton began activity engaging with the community and has been instrumental in building beneficial connections between Wright State and local public health agencies.

Her academic-public health partnerships have been invaluable to student learning, facilitated practice-based research and brought university expertise into the local community.

Paton has used her connections to the community to enhance her students’ learning experiences by including service-based learning. She transformed the community assessment course that she teaches into a service-based learning course. Her students have assisted health departments, hospitals and nonprofit organizations with community assessment projects.

Her partnerships with health departments, hospitals, nonprofits and the Air Force community have also provided students with rewarding internships that meet their professional goals and advance initiatives in the community.

Paton continued her role at Public Health – Dayton and Montgomery County for 14 years, providing a variety of pivotal roles, including mentoring and training epidemiologists and other staff; developing new epidemiologists; providing educational opportunities to other staff at public health; and participating as a liaison and representative of Public Health – Dayton and Montgomery County at dozens of coalitions, task forces and other groups.

Paton’s community efforts have advanced public health practices in the region and state. She has worked on many collaborative community projects, including contact tracing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Paton was part of a Wright State effort to create a team of over 50 students who assisted local health departments with case investigation and contact tracing.

She co-founded several important community-based groups, including the Infant Mortality Coalition, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Task Force, Ethics Board and Research Review Panel. She also led the creation of the first formal community health assessment for Public Health – Dayton and Montgomery County, which won awards and is used as a model example.

“As her colleague for almost 20 years, I have witnessed Dr. Paton’s long-term commitment to our community in both providing service, but also in preparing future public health leaders for this critical role. Her contributions have transformed the community we serve,” said Marietta Orlowski, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences.

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