How long have you been working in tobacco cessation?
I started working in tobacco cessation in 1991, so 30 years. I have provided tobacco treatment services for more than 10 years and then trained others in tobacco treatment and continue to this day. I worked with adults, adolescents, and teenagers to quit smoking over the 10 years.
What began your interest in this work?
I was thrown into it. I was a tobacco user and applied to work at a local health department as a health educator in Family Living (sex education) in Northern Kentucky. On my first day of work, my supervisor said they changed their minds and wanted me to be their Substance Abuse Prevention Coordinator. It occurred to me that one of the substances most abused in Kentucky was tobacco so I immediately began to work on eliminating my own addiction. I would not work with schools or anyone on preventing tobacco use until I had successfully stopped smoking for at least 6 months. (Schools were asking me to judge tobacco free poster contests) Finally in November 1991 I quit smoking for the last time, became involved with tobacco prevention education in schools, administered TAR WARS in Northern Kentucky, and became trained as a tobacco cessation facilitator first in ACS FreshStart. Exactly six months after I quit, I offered my first tobacco cessation group and absolutely loved it. I had 20 people, 15 had quit by the end of the sessions and 12 were still quit after a year. I became trained in several different programs, assisted University of Kentucky and ACS to develop a teen program, and became the first local Tobacco Prevention Coordinator in Kentucky. Eventually I left Kentucky and started the Quitline in Ohio and became a CTTS through Mayo Clinic and was also trained in 3 other CTTS programs to see how they all differed. I am now honored to be the Director of Tobacco Cessation in the Tobacco Prevention and Control Branch in the NC Division of Public Health for the past 11 years as well as a Director for the Duke-UNC TTS program.
What makes you passionate about this work?
My favorite thing was when a young person from high school or a young adult would stop me and tell me that I helped them stop smoking and they still were tobacco free from the classes I provided them either in middle school or high school. These kids had so many problems from eating disorders, unintended pregnancies, and abuse from parents and boyfriends-sadly, teachers would tell me these kids were the worst of the worst. With all of those problems, many were still able to quit and I was so extremely proud of all of them. They were all great people and took the class seriously. Many adults I worked with have written me letters, especially when I followed up with them after a year, to let me know how grateful they were for the help they received. I am also very proud of them as they worked very hard to be tobacco free. I even recruited many to help me facilitate more classes. Watching how tobacco treatment has evolved over the years has been exciting especially with new behavioral techniques and medications. I know that quitting tobacco is very hard and have experienced many losses from those unable to do so. I truly believe that working with people to become tobacco free has kept me tobacco free all these years.
How did you become a part of the Duke-UNC TTS program?
In 2015, the Women and Childrens Branch received funding from the General Assembly to reduce infant mortality. The Branch wrote an RFA for counties to apply for the funds. Sally Herndon wrote into the RFA that those counties who were going to address tobacco should pay for staff to get TTS training. Sally came to me to see which TTS program we should contract with to provide this training since I had training from four programs. I stated that since North Carolina had so many experts in the field, and the closest training at the time was in New Jersey, we should develop our own. We approached Dr. Adam Goldstein at UNC, who jumped at the chance, and we began to investigate what it would take. In the meantime, Sally spoke with Dr. James Davis at a Race to Quit Press Conference. I went to Sally Herndon asking how to develop this program when Duke AND UNC wanted to be involved. Sally said that she would negotiate with them both so that the program would have the support of Duke and UNC rather than just one of them. Sally DID it!!! We all met, developed an outline, and the rest is history!
Is there anything else you’d like to share with people about yourself or your work?
One of my most favorite things to do is laugh. I try to find humor in my life and work and sometimes bring it into my job, presentations, and meetings. What I would like you to know is that this is not meant to diminish how important or serious our work is in helping to decrease tobacco use. It is a way for me to continue to work in this field with fresh eyes.
The Duke-UNC Tobacco Treatment Specialist Training Program trains health professionals to provide evidence-based treatment for tobacco use and dependence. The program provides an impactful educational experience for a wide variety of professionals, including clinicians, nurses, pharmacists, social workers, public health policy-makers, and more.
Participants in our virtual training earn up to 28.75 hours of CME credit and are prepared to pursue their National Certificate in Tobacco Treatment Practice (formerly Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist, or CTTS). Our comprehensive curriculum is provided as a dynamic and interactive virtual experience over the course of 2 weeks, with a focus on problem-based learning activities, applied practice problems, and tobacco treatment program implementation.
Visit our website to learn more or register. Ask us about our early bird tuition discounts and partial scholarships!