More than thirty years ago, Barbara Levin came to rural East Tennessee as a National Health Service Corps volunteer. She has been committed to improving the quality of life for the people of this area. She has worn many professional hats, based on her dual commitment to primary care and public health. As county health officer and family physician, Dr. Levin developed programs to improve women and children’s health in this community, including programs focusing on dental health, school health, behavioral health, and preventive services. She was recently named a 2012 Innovation Advisor by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) and is working on a pediatric behavioral health project in this role.
As the co-founder of the Women’s Wellness and Maternity Center, Barbara has been involved with birth centers and maternity care innovation. This facility, the only publicly-held out of hospital birth center, won a Ford Foundation Award for Innovation in Government in 1991.
With community involvement and grants from the Office of Women’s Health and Tennessee Diabetes Program, Dr. Levin designed “Get With It”, a project to empower women to make appropriate exercise and nutrition choices. This project encouraged 17,000 women, including diabetics, in Monroe and Loudon Counties to improve their health.
Dr. Levin practices community-based medicine at Chota Community Health Services, a FQHC that she created with other community leaders to assure continued primary care access for local residents. This network includes three clinics, seven school-based sites, and behavioral health providers.
Dr. Levin’s involvement with American Public Health Association has been extensive, including Governing Council whip, Maternal/ Child Health Section chair, and Nominating and Awards Committees. As the past chair of the Intersectional Council, she served as an ex-officio member of the Executive Board in 2010-2011.
Barbara received her medical training at the University of California San Francisco and completed a rural family practice residency at the University of Missouri Columbia. She also holds an MPH from the University of Texas-Houston and received her undergraduate degree from Stanford University in Social Thought and Institutions.
Barb and her husband Josh Gettinger have four children: Sunny, Becky, Ellie, and Joe; two sons-in-law, Trey Csar and Mitch Nelles; and two grandchildren, Hallie and Cort.
Effective collaboration is core to public health. During my thirty years of experience as a rural health care provider, a public health worker, and a volunteer for the American Public Health Association (APHA), this skill has been essential. Working with others to solve specific problems requires listening to diverse views and shaping a consensus opinion – these are the types of challenges I relish. As a physician and county health officer, I have interacted with individuals and agencies on local, state, and national levels. I discovered the power of collaboration while serving with the APHA leadership and members of the Maternal/Child Health (MCH) Section. Assessing existing systems and creating innovative solutions is both exciting and rewarding – this type of collaboration led to the Maternity Center, School-based Clinics, and Dental Project in Monroe County and was the basis for my work with MCH.
Within APHA, there is a tendency towards separate strategies for each section and affiliate. As chair of the Intersectional Council, I realized the necessity of increased cross-component communication. Sections have similar functions, but the projects, personalities, and outcomes of these groups are quite different. We must develop shared reporting systems and quality improvement by setting clear goals and using limited resources wisely to support necessary reforms.
At the moment, we face immense pressure in the public health community with the challenges of the Affordable Care Act and limited state funding. It is a unique time and unique opportunity for APHA. As part of the APHA executive team, my aim is to increase our communication capacity throughout the organization with the end goal of effective collaboration. The passion, commitment and drive of the APHA membership is our greatest asset, and working together we can bring about healthier outcomes for ALL our constituencies.